You’ll note that we have four different areas, and these are safe areas for people who need help because what will happen in a moment someone’s going to volunteer to become the It. Let’s call them It, the person does the chasing.
You know you don’t have a lot of space, but you will still be the person who comes around compassionately, and just places a hand maybe on the back or the shoulder of the person. It is not a rugby tackle drag them to the ground, you just simply need to tag them at some point.
When that person has been tagged by the It, they must immediately, wherever they were situated when they got tagged, fall to the ground and act like a dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant.
You fall to the ground and act like a dead ant with both, sorry, both sets all limbs in the air ready. Now you can’t do anything, you’re out of the game. In order to continue back into the game is that four other people need to come to your rescue. Now there’s a double incentive here, apart from which you’re saving that poor dead ant to bring them to an ant hospital, is that when you grab one of those four limbs you cannot be tagged by the It.
Once all four limbs have had a volunteer grab a piece, lift that person gently, bring them, and then place them, don’t drop them, place them into one of the ant hospitals close by. Once you have returned that ant to a hospital that person then comes back alive. They can then leave the hospital and they’re about ready to get back into the game.
So to repeat, we run around, there will be at least one person to start with who will be the It. Once you’ve been tagged drop to the ground and become a dead ant. If you need to call out dead ant to alert everyone around you that you need help.
Four people will then come to your rescue, pick you up gently, place you into one of the any hospitals to bring you back alive. Got the basic idea?
Alright, do we have a volunteer? Fantastic, Biz. Okay so, if you’re anywhere close to Biz right now you might want to move away. Recognising the space we’re working with folks. Be conscious of others around you, and go!
(The group plays Dead Ant Tag.)
Presently, Biz is doing his best, but he only has two hands in order to get all the ants. So Biz, if you choose would you like to continue to be It, or would you like to swap out?
(I’ll swap with Jordan.)
Nothing better than asking for a volunteer. So Jordan and two others. Jordan who else, can I get two more volunteers?
(Lance and we’ll go Jimmy. All of the boys let’s go.)
Alright, go! You have three Its now.
(Group plays Dead Ant Tag with three Its.)
It’s carnage. Carnage.
(group continues to play Dead Ant Tag)
How To Play Narrative
Choose a flat, wide open space in which to play, and ask your group to spread evenly throughout it. You could create boundaries, but it’s generally not necessary, because the fun is in the centre.
Next, randomly place a series of hula-hoops (3 or 4 is normally suffice) within the space. Announce that each person is an ‘ant’ and that each of the hula-hoops is an ‘ant hospital.’
Ask one person to volunteer to be ‘It’ and on “GO” explain that this person will, in a few moments, run around the space trying to tag as many people (ants) as possible. Pretty familiar set up so far.
Next, explain that when a person is tagged, they are obliged to suddenly drop to the ground and, lying on their back, wiggle their arms and legs into the air exclaiming “DEAD ANT, DEAD ANT…” ad nauseam. This will act as an emergency signal to all other still-in-the-game ants to rescue one of their own.
Responding as such, four ‘paramedic’ ants will grab one limb each of the ‘dead ant,’ and lift gently to place them safely inside one of the closest ‘ant hospitals.’
As long as the paramedic ants remain in contact with the dead ant, they cannot be tagged by “It,” ie this is just one incentive to save souls.
Upon being gently placed (notice, I have used the word gently twice now) onto the spot of the ant hospital, the dead ant will experience a miraculous recovery and swing back into the game.
And so on it goes. In theory, the game could go on forever, but that’s unlikely.
Stop when you feel that everyone has had enough, or try one of the fun variations below (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Hula-hoops are not essential. Chalk circles, gym/rubber spots, rope loops, etc work just as well as ‘ant hospitals.’
Given that people will be lying on the ground, it is important that you use an appropriate space for this purpose.
When things get tough, there is a tendency to be satisfied with just two ‘paramedic’ ants, or perhaps six of them, before a lift is attempted. Remind your group that, strictly speaking, there should always be four (and only four) paramedic ants in position before a lift is attempted – but don’t be too strict. Remember, this is meant to be fun.
Just a further note to reinforce the ‘place gently on the ant hospital’ rule.
Also, remind your group that the four paramedic ants are required to ‘lift’ their dead cousin to the hospital, not drag.
If your ‘It’ manages to tag everyone too quickly, move the hospitals further apart and/or nominate a new ‘It.’
You could integrate Dead Ant Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Making Reasoned Judgements
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 good burst of physical exercise.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort required to successfully play this highly energetic tag game speaks to the demonstration of healthy and supportive social interactions, and discussed in the Social-Emotional Learning tab. With a clear focus on safety, you could invite your group to reflect on a variety of skills such as the ability to:
Adhere to certain safety guidelines,
Cooperate with others to bring them to safety;
Resolve petty grievances (such as arguing about whether someone was tagged or not,)]
Make responsible decisions at all times, and
Express empathy and compassion in thought and deed.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Dead Ant Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
More Ants: For really large groups (30+ people,) introduce two or more ants and/or spread the ant hospitals further apart.
Ant Picnic: Encourage ants to visit a designated ‘picnic’ area, periphery to the playing space, as often as possible to earn collective points for their any colony. To earn a point, an ant must place any part of their body inside the designated area for two seconds (without being tagged.) Of course, they are recommended to save lost souls in the process.
Random Dead Ants: Just for the fun of it, call “DEAD ANTS” anywhere, anytime (ie long after the game is finished,) and watch as people just drop to the floor and wiggle their way through an impulsive “DEAD ANT, DEAD ANT” chorus.
Take a look at Hip Tag and Hug Tag enjoy two more tag games provide incentives for people to help others.
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Useful Framing Ideas
You’ve all seen what happens when you kick off the top of an ant-nest. It’s rather distressing to the ants, so they immediately exit their little home and start frantically darting about trying to work out what happened, looking for survivors, etc. Imagine for a moment, that you are all ants and someone has just kicked the top off your ant nest…
In an increasingly selfish world, it’s comforting to know that there are always some people who are willing to take a risk in an effort to help others. We hear of extraordinarily brave acts in the news all the time, and often wonder if put in the same situation, could we do the same? While only a fun exercise, this next activity will actually provide you with an incentive to help others, because at one level it also benefits you…
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 zany, highly interactive tag game:
What emotions did you experience as a Dead Ant?
How often did you put yourself at risk to save one of your colleagues? Why?
What risks do we take in our ordinary lives?
How do we or others benefit from these decisions to take a risk?
The inspiration for Dead Ant Tag, and many more inventive large-group tag games, was sourced from the following publication: