When I taught gym full time, I loved having a handful of go-to tag games all the kids knew and enjoyed. These were what I would use for our warm up every day.
When it comes to gym class, I don’t like having a lot of down-time. The time flies by much faster than expected, and I want to have all my routines and structures in place so that students have as much time as possible to be moving, cooperating, and developing skills.
Side note: if you’re interested in checking out my tips for setting up and running your own P.E. class, check out my blog post here.
Personally, I like to have the kids begin a warm up (usually a tag game) as soon as they enter the gym. I let them know the game we’re playing and they immediately start moving around. Then, when I feel they’ve gotten enough warm-up time, I’ll blow my whistle (or my harmonica, or whatever it is you use) and have them come into their sitting positions so I can explain our next task to them.
If you teach elementary, you can have them start a game as soon as they enter the gym. If you teach junior high or high school you can have them start as soon as they’re out of the change room.
I start each year (or term) with a games unit. Depending on the weather, I’ll do a mix of indoor games, field games, and tarmac games. Starting the year this way ensures all the kids know the rules to our basic go-to games and I can draw from these easily for the rest of the year.
Here are some of my personal favourite tag games to play with my kiddos and which they never seem to tire of! You may have played your own versions of these with different names or slightly different rules. Play around with these! Make them work for you and your students!
A couple of years into my teaching career, I was teaching a gym class one day and a student asked me before class if they could play “regular tag” as a warm up that day.
I realized I hadn’t played, or had my students play, a classic game of tag in years! There are so many fun variations of tag that we rarely (if ever) just play good old Tag.
Don’t sleep on this one, it’s good ol’ fashioned fun!
Revenge tag is my personal favourite tag game. It’s easy, the kids love it, and there’s very little “down time” so kids are moving for the majority of play time.
In this game, everyone is “it”. Students run around and try to tag one another. When they get tagged, they sit down. They can rejoin the game when the person who tagged them gets tagged.
If students tag one another at the same time, they must do “rock-paper-scissors” to see who must sit down.
In this game, the teacher calls out a colour and whoever is wearing that colour becomes “it” – so there are multiple taggers. I will let the kids play for a few minutes, then blow my whistle and call a new colour, restarting the game so everyone joins in again.
You can play so that kids who are tagged must sit down and wait for the game to restart, they can do a task (like 10 jumping jacks) to rejoin, you can play “revenge tag” style, or so on. It’s up to you!
This is the stupidest tag game ever, but kids love it (potty humour, am I right?). In this game, select two or three students to be “it”, depending on the size of your group.
When kids are tagged, they must kneel down on one knee and put their hand up like a flusher. Yes, they’ve essentially turned themselves into a toilet.
To rejoin the game, another student must sit (or pretend to sit for less/no touching) on the “toilet” and hit the flusher. Added fun: make the students make a flushing noise when their hand has been “flushed”).
In this classic tag game, one or two students are “it” and they start in the middle of the gym, field, or playing area. The rest of the students start at one end of the room, along the wall.
When the teacher yells “go”, the students must run from the end of the room they are starting on across the gym to the other end. They have to tag the wall to be safe.
Meanwhile, the “it” students try to tag others as they run across. Students whoa re tagged join the “it” students in the centre and try to tag others who run across the gym.
In this tag game, one or two students start as “it”. When they tag another student, that student links arms with them and continues tagging. Thus, the “blob” of students tagging continues to grow larger.
Another version of this is also virus or amoeba tag, where as soon as the blob reaches four students, it splits into two different blobs. I find this to be a safer version as students are less likely to trip over one another.
This is a simple and straight-forward game of tag, and it’s nice to play when you want to promote kindness in your room, too. Sometimes I’ll play it outside in health class on a nice day.
Choose one or two students to be “it”. When a student gets tagged, they must freeze in place. When another student comes and gives them a compliment, they are unfrozen and can rejoin the game.
This is a great game you can play as tag or as dodgeball. Split the class into two different teams and have each team choose one doctor.
Everyone on each team is “it” and is trying to tag the other team’s players. When a player is tagged, they must sit down. They can only rejoin the game if they are tagged by their team’s doctor.
The teams are trying to get everyone on the opposite team tagged, so they’re trying to figure out who the doctor is and tag them, so no one can be “rescued” and rejoin the game.
Another classic tag game. In freeze tag, a couple of students are “it”. When a student is tagged, they must stand frozen in place with their legs open and their arms up – like a standing star.
You can have students unfreeze their classmates by either running underneath their outstretched arms, or crawling under their legs.
What time is it, Mr. Wolf? is a great game for younger students. I also find that older students often forget about it as they get older, but then love revisiting it!
In this game, one students is “the wolf”. They stand facing the opposite direction of the other students, so they cannot see how close they are.
The rest of the students stand along a wall away from the “wolf”. The students call out “what time is it, Mr. Wolf?” and the wolf responds with a time (like, “two o’clock”, “four o’clock”, etc.). The students will move that many steps forward.
When the wolf responds to the question with “dinner time” or “lunch time”, the wolf turns around and tries to tag students as they run back to the original wall.
A tagged student will become the new “Mr. Wolf”.
Zombie tag is almost as stupid as toilet tag, but not quite. Kids love it because they like zombies and think pretending to be one is fun. I don’t get it, but whatever.
In this game, a couple of students will start as the zombies – these are the “it” kids. They must move like zombies (no bending legs or arms) trying to tag other players.
When another player is tagged, they also become a zombie.
In theory, this game shouldn’t work because the zombies can’t move fast enough to catch other players, but enough kids want to be tagged since they want to become zombies, that pretty soon the numbers work in the zombies’ favour and they can tag more students.
HOT DOG TAG
Hot dog tag is super silly, but I find that even my older junior high kids enjoy it and have a laugh when we play. In this game, when students are tagged, they must lie down on the floor.
They can re-join the game when two other students come and lie o either side of them, creating a “hot dog bun” around them.
I love line tag because you can have kids play it running or walking. So if you have a headache one day, the walking version is definitely your friend.
In this game, students can only move along the gym floor lines. They cannot jump between lines or over other students. Once a student is tagged, they must sit down where they were tagged, creating an obstacle other students cannot move around.
You can play this with one or two “it” students, or you can combine it with revenge tag and make everyone it.
COPS AND ROBBERS
This is a fun game and, after playing one round, you can switch which team are the cops and which are the robbers so everyone gets a turn to do both.
Split the class into two teams – cops and robbers. The cops’ goal is to get all the robbers into jail and the robbers’ goals is to run amok and not get thrown in jail.
When a cop tags a robber, the robber must go into “jail” (I designate a corner of the gym to be the jail). The robbers can free their fellow robbers by running into the jail and tagging them (one person at a time).
NOTE: if the terms “cops” and “robbers” are triggering for any kids, use different words. You may not even realize that these are triggering, so I suggest using different terminology all the time. I just used “cops and robbers” here because it’s the title most people are familiar with. Try things like dragons and centaurs, wolves and bears, etc.
There are two versions of this game – one where the “it” student closes their eyes and all the others have to whisper and sneak around, and the other that I prefer.
In my version of four corners, kids are running and moving the whole time. I don’t like the original version because there’s too much sitting around and watching others play when kids are “out”.
Number each corner of the gym from 1-4 and make sure all the kids know the numbers.
Start with one or two kids in the centre and the rest of the students must choose one of the four corners of the gym to go to.
The student in the centre calls out a number from 1-4 and the students from that corner must run to one of the other three corners safely. If they get tagged running to a new corner, they must join the “it” person in the middle and try to tag students in the next round.
In this game, all of the students are “it”. If they get tagged once, they must put one hand on the spot they’ve been tagged, and continue playing and attempting to tag others with one free hand.
If they get tagged a second time, they put their second hand on the spot they’ve been tagged. Now, they cannot tag others, so they simply run around and avoid being tagged.
If the student is tagged a third time, they must go to the “hospital” (a designated corner of the gym or playing area) and complete a task to re-join the game. I’ll make their task something like jumping jacks, sitting against the wall, burpees, or so on.
In octopus tag, one person is “it” and starts in the middle of the gym. The rest of the players start at one end, and when “GO” is called, they attempt to run across the gym and touch the opposite wall.
If players get tagged while running across, they become “seaweed”. Once they become seaweed, they must stay where they were tagged and now help the octopus (the original “it” student) by trying to reach out and tag other students as they run past.
What do you think? Have you played any of these games? Are there any others that you love and that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments below!
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