In advance, cut a strip of string approx 40 to 60 cm long, one for each person in your group.
Distribute one piece of string and a balloon to each person.
Each person inflates their balloon, at least 25 to 30 cm, and ties the end in a knot.
Using the string, each person ties the balloon around their ankle. Ideally, the balloon should drift a small distance away from a person’s ankle.
When you call “GO” everyone aims to stay in the game for as long as possible.
Individuals may stomp on other people’s balloons for as long as their own balloon remains intact.
When an individual’s balloon is burst, they are eliminated.
Continue play for several minutes, until one person remains, or fatigue sets in.
How To Play Narrative
The beginning of this exercise is akin to the initial impact of The Elusive Shadow – what you’re chasing will inevitably get away from you. And in each case, it’s terrific fun.
In advance, cut a strip of string approx 40 to 60 cm long (15-24″) one for each person.
Next, gather your group and distribute this piece of string and a balloon to each person. Ask them to inflate their balloon, at least as large as 25 to 30 cm (10-12′), and tie the end in a knot.
By way of demonstration, tie one end of the string to the knot of the balloon. And then, crouching down, wrap the length of the string around one of your ankles and tie it off either to the knot of the balloon, or to itself.
Pretty soon, everyone in your group will have a balloon attached to their ankles. Ideally, the balloon should drift a small distance away from a person’s ankle to avoid stamping thereon.
Balloon Tag is pretty much like any other tag game, except that instead of physically touching another person to tag them, everyone aims to stomp on their competitor’s balloon.
In essence, everyone is aiming to stomp on other people’s balloons at the same time avoid having their balloon stomped on.
As you may have guessed, an individual may continue to play for as long as their balloon is intact. As soon as it is burst, they are eliminated and invited to watch from the sidelines.
Continue playing for several minutes, or until one of two events occur – one person is crowned the ‘winner,’ or fatigue sets in.
Given this tag involves so much erratic, fast-paced movement, I guarantee that your group will quickly exhaust themselves, and will soon collapse with big smiles on their faces.
Practical Leadership Tips
With a balloon tied to an ankle, it is inevitable that someone may inadvertently kick another person’s leg or foot as they attempt to burst the balloon. Make your group aware of this possibility, and encourage safe-stomping actions. To mitigate the risk, use extra-long pieces of string.
General rule of thumb – the smaller the balloon, the longer a game of balloon tag will take, ie less-inflated balloons are just harder to burst.
Technically speaking, this is a non-contact sport. So, holding someone to assist in the bursting of their balloon is not okay.
Consider playing other balloon games – such as Balloonarama, Boop, Star Wars and Frantic – prior to this tag because it’s a good way to dispense with these rubber/latex props at the end of your program.
You could integrate Balloon Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage healthy social interactions as much as enjoy the benefits of a short burst of physical exercise.
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
With such energy and the potential for harm, this is an excellent activity for exploring the development and/or practice of behavioural norms. In advance or at the conclusion of the tag game, invite your group to reflect on the types of interactions that were (or could be) demonstrated and reconcile them to the development of healthy and respectful relationships. Focus on those competencies that nourish healthy relationships and those that do not.
For example, discuss the different ways in which one may stamp on another person’s balloon and the consequences of such. Ask questions that elicit responses from your group that guide them towards positive behaviours, rather than overtly telling your group what and what not to do.
Two Balloons: Everyone ties one balloon to each of their ankles, effectively giving them two lives. As soon as both balloons are burst, an individual is eliminated.
Circle Balloon Tag: Form a circle holding hands, with each person tying one balloon to each of their ankles. An individual remains a part of the circle until both of their balloons are burst, at which point they remove themselves, and the circle re-joins to continue play.
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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 energetic balloon tag game:
How quickly did your balloon get stomped on?
What measures did you take to avoid being tagged, or to tag another person?
Did you observe any collaborative efforts in the game? Why did this occur?
How might the way we played this game reflect on the life of this group?
The inspiration for Balloon Tag was sourced from my vivid memories of playing this frenetic tag game many times as a summer camper.