Freeze tag is a classic game that will never go out of style. It’s easy to play, doesn’t require equipment and expends a lot of energy. Those are three criteria any mom can get behind when thinking of games to play with the kids.
“Games like tag have been around forever because they’re so simple, and the rules seem almost innate for kids,” notes Lauren Drobnjak, pediatric physical therapist, and Claire Heffron, pediatric occupational therapist, the co-authors of “Cooperative Activities for Kids” and creators of The Inspired Treehouse. “Classic games like tag are some of the quickest ways to get kids moving and working on all kinds of developmental skills like strength, endurance, social skills, coordination and more.”
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Freeze tag may seem like just a simple game that is a good source of exercise, but it’s so much more. “The game of tag provides children with a way to become familiar with their body’s capabilities. Physically, they get to discover speed, agility, coordination and spatial relations. Mentally, they get introduced to strategy, compassion, timing, and cause and effect,” explains J.J. Ferrer, the author of “The Art of Stone Skipping and Other Fun Old-Time Games.” “In what seems like a simple game of unstructured movement, there’s actually a lot of learning going on.” Here’s a refresher on the original game of freeze tag:
Here’s the original way to play Freeze Tag:
Original Freeze Tag
The person who is “It” chases the other kids to try to tag them. When she successfully tags a player, that player must freeze and remain frozen until another player, who has not been tagged, tags them to unfreeze them. The game continues until all runners have been frozen, and then a new person becomes “It.”
And here are seven variations you can use to mix things up a bit at the playground:
Moon and the Morning Stars
Also called Shadow Tag, this version must be played on a sunny day. The moon (“It”) has to stay in the shadow of a tree or building while the stars (other players) run in and out of the shadow, explains Ferrer. The moon can freeze a star who runs into the shadows or tag their shadow instead.
In this version, to unfreeze a player you must tag them and shout the name of a TV show. If you accidentally name a show that has already been called, you are now frozen next to that player. This game can be played with other categories such as books, animal names or breakfast cereals.
Frozen players spread their legs open to create a tunnel which another player must crawl through to unfreeze them. If a player is tagged while trying to unfreeze another, they must stand up right in front of the person they were saving, creating a double tunnel for someone else to crawl through.
Animal Freeze Tag
This variation created by The Inspired Treehouse assigns players to animal groups, which come with unique movements like skipping, hopping, running and galloping. The zookeeper, who is “It,” must freeze or cage the animals while a mischievous monkey unfreezes and set them free. Check out the full instructions for this goofy game of tag here.
This nighttime round of tag won’t soon be forgotten. “To play, each child has a flashlight, and if they shine it on a friend, that friend freezes. Last one who remains unfrozen wins,” explains Drobnjak and Heffron.
This goofy idea from The Game Gal will give your kids’ minds and bodies a workout. In this version you either run with stick-straight arms and legs or bent arms and legs. Each player chooses one way to run at the beginning of the game, including the person who is “It.” When tagged, you must freeze in whatever crazy position you’re in, and the person who is “It” changes to the other method of running (for example, from running with straight arms and legs to now bent arms and legs). When a person is unfrozen, they also switch to the other way of running.
Ultimate Freeze Tag
The person who is “It” hides a small ball before play starts. All players run around looking for the ball while trying not to be tagged. Once a player is tagged and frozen, she cannot move until another player finds the ball, throws it to her and she catches it.
Want more game ideas? Try these 101 Outdoor Activities and Games for Kids.
Victoria Georgoff is a freelance writer and psychotherapist who enjoys writing about parenting, helping other parents and, of course, being a parent herself.