Distribute at least one tossable item to every person, eg fleece-ball.
Gather your group close to one another with their arms stretched forward so that all of the tossable items are touching.
When ready, call “GO” instructing everyone to throw their tossable items into the air.
Invite each person to grab one or more items to toss at others in an attempt to eliminate them.
If a person is hit by an item below their waist, they are eliminated and must crouch on the spot close to where they were tagged.
Play continues until one person remains standing.
Play several rounds and/or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
On paper, this could read like ‘just another tag game.’ If it does, then I encourage you to learn more about playmeo’s innovative approach to education to expand your programming horizons. Hence, this remains one of my top sixty activities!
Having passed out a soft tossable to everyone (eg fleece-ball, rolled up sock, etc,) ask your group to bunch in real close to the centre of your playing space.
With tongue firmly planted in the side of your cheek, explain that this activity is really just a representation of how the universe was created – with the big bang (with apologies to all my creationist friends out there.)
When ready, ask everyone to extend their arm and lean in to create the biggest, fluffiest soft tossable/fleece-ball/asteroid. Then on “GO” instruct your group to throw their items high into the air, as if the asteroid was exploding.
At this point, everyone is invited to quickly scatter and grab one or more tossables and start to piff them at one another. If someone is hit anywhere below their waist, they are eliminated and asked to simply crouch down on the spot they were hit (mindful of the action around them.)
The first round normally takes about 20 seconds, give or take a few. Not much fun if you were the first to go out. So, I then introduce the ‘Asteroid Rule.’
An eliminated person is now entitled to come back into the fray if they can grab a passing tossable (aka asteroid) from their crouching position (pivoting on one knee is permitted.)
Clearly, the game is now given a new lease of life, allowing people to be eliminated and return to the game as often and as long as the game is played.
Unless of course, you are stuck way out on the edges of the galaxy, and no asteroids are to be seen anywhere. If this happens a lot – or not – try something new from the Variations tab below.
Practical Leadership Tips
Sometimes, there will be arguments as to whether an asteroid hit above or below one’s waistline. Pre-emptively, I like to suggest that if and when these conflicts occur that the two combatants take one of two routes – invite them to stand and argue for several minutes while everyone else is having a great time, or choose to sit down and enjoy the universal commotion going on around them.
To govern fair play, I often require people to actually toss their asteroids to eliminate others. That is, sometimes the more athletic people will chase and tag others using the tossable item in their hand (rather than throw it and possibly lose it.)
Clearly, your choice of tossable is critical, because these objects will be thrown at people. Maybe a tennis ball is okay if it strikes a leg, but it’s not okay when it hits someone in the head, especially when the head of an eliminated person (crouched down) is often at or below the height of most people’s waists. So choose carefully. Fleece-balls are ideal as are rolled-up socks and nerf-balls.
You could integrate Asteroids into a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage healthy social interactions as much as enjoy an outrageously fun time with others.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a dose of physical exercise and a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the interaction required to safely and respectfully play Asteroids speaks to the benefits of developing healthy behavioural norms insofar as keeping the activity physically and emotionally safe. To this end, consider your (activity) sequence carefully and always honour choice.
Also, as a tag game, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of accountability demonstrated during the activity, ie willingly removing oneself from the game when you have been eliminated.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Asteroids could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Multiple Lives: To give the game a little longevity, permit each person to be tagged two or more times before they are eliminated. Suggest that after being tagged the first (or second) time, all further efforts to toss an item must involve their less-dominant arm.
Ankle Biters 1: A person who is eliminated may tag (notice I said ‘tag’ and not grab) the ankle or leg of a passing player. If this occurs, the player and tagger switch roles. The tagger is entitled to pivot on one knee in an attempt to tag a passing player.
Ankle Biters 2: As per above, the tagged player must stand still for five seconds while the tagger calls loudly “TARGET, TARGET” to get the attention of other players. If the tagged player is hit with a tossable within the five seconds, he or she switches roles with the tagger. If not, the temporarily paused player is free to roam again.
Team Asteroids: Form teams of players whose ultimate aim is to eliminate all other teams from the universe. Continue play until the members of only one team remain, or has the most number of team members still standing when the time expires.
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Useful Framing Ideas
I happen to believe that the universe originated from the ‘big bang.’ It’s hard to imagine what this must have looked like, but this next exercise might give you a sneak peek…
If you’re one of those people who tends to get eliminated fairly quickly in a tag game, then you’re going to enjoy this next game…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this wonderfully playful tag game:
Was this game fun? Why or why not?
How did it feel to be able to jump back into the game after being eliminated?
How easy was it for you to acknowledge that you were tagged?
Did you employ any strategies to stay active in the game for as long as possible?
Did you observe any notable behaviours from other players? For example, did an active player toss a ball to an eliminated player to help them get back into the game?
The inspiration for Asteroids, and many more playful tag games, was sourced from the following publication: