If you have a partner what I’d like you to do is to link arms like Andrew and I are doing. Just like this and on your outside arm I’d like you to place your hand on your hip like this. Alright, so you can join there with Kiera now.
So starting with your partner you should have something a bit like this and you hand on the outside looks a bit like a teacup handle.
Except for Tommy and I. Now each of you before you start I would like you just to find a little bit more extra room between you and other people. We don’t need a circle just sort of spread out a little bit.
Okay, perfect. Where your feet are right now is where you need to remain stationary. Okay, remain linked with your arms on the outside.
Now Tommy, you and I are going to be a bit different. You know in the classic game it’s cat versus mouse. Cat often chases the mouse. If you had a choice which one would you want to be?
(Um I would like to be the cat.)
You’re the cat which means you will be chasing me. I am now the mouse. Now in slow motion, and don’t catch me just yet, I would you to chase me around these people. Are you ready? Here we go.
Alright, so the cat is chasing the mouse. Now what happens is that at anytime the cat should happen to tag the mouse, notice I said tag and not rugby tackle drag them to the ground, it is a compassionate tag, the roles reverse. Now I am the cat and I now start chasing this person.
Now let’s say though you are still the cat. Sometimes you might get a bit pooped running around too much or for strategy you can now link up with any of the pairs.
For example I can come up here and link with Kiera which means two’s company, but three’s a crowd. Tommy is now going to chase a new mouse. Same game but a new mouse.
Now to help us out Andrew could you come on back here and link with Kiera? So come on back here imagine you haven’t been caught yet you manage to link. You of course link it is always to person on the other side and now I’m off. So let’s say you tag me I am now the cat and I am chasing you Tommy.
(Group starts to play Elbow Tag game)
Link up anyway because you ran away.
There you go now Kiera is the mouse. Wait until they link before you let go of your partner.
(Group cheering on the mouse in Elbow Tag)
Alright so now you’re the mouse. Remember you can link up anytime you are the mouse.
So at this point you are chasing here with Tommy, he’s the mouse. He is going to link up.
Alright, hold it there for a second. At this point we have a cat and a mouse. You’ve got the basic concept that when a mouse connects we have a new mouse.
Either for strategy or because you’re just pooped, the cat is now also allowed to link. So if you’re getting tired link up and the other person at the other end will now become the new cat.
So you can become a new cat or a new mouse.
Watch the game.
If you need to if you are just linking remind them what you were so they know what they are just about to become.
Are you ready girls?
The game still continues whoever was the cat is going to be doing the chasing. Go!
(Group starts to play Elbow Tag again)
Good. Go Andrew go. Remember you can link up anytime. You can switch up.
You are a new cat Andrew. Tommy is still the mouse.
Nice one, run Tommy run.
Alright, we now have two cats two mice and I am a cat. You’re a cat.
Two cats two mice any cat can chase any mouse.
Alright, Lily you’re a cat you’re chasing me.
(Elbow Tag game continues)
How To Play Narrative
Ask each person to find a partner, and link arms/elbows with them. Take a look at Getting Into Pairs for some fun partnering ideas.
The outside arms of each pair should be positioned like a tea-cup handle (with hand on hip.) If you have an uneven number of people, create one trio, or choose to join the action or pull out.
Encourage each pair to position themselves randomly within a specified area, but not too close to the other pairs or solid objects such as walls and furniture, ie you don’t need a circle formation.
By way of demonstration, ask two people to volunteer and become a cat (the ‘tagger’) and a mouse (the ‘target.’) Having de-coupled, explain that on “GO” the cat chases the mouse in an effort to tag them somewhere below the shoulders.
The chase occurs in and around the other pairs, who are fixed in their positions until either (a) the mouse gets tagged, or (b) the mouse chooses to link with any one of the outside arms of the linked pairs.
If the mouse chooses to link, it’s a case of ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd.’ So the partner linked to the person with whom the ‘mouse’ linked, will immediately release their arm from their partner, enter the fray and become the new ‘mouse,’ ie the old mouse swaps roles with them. The cat resumes the chase, but of the new mouse now.
If and when a tag is made, the cat and mouse reverse roles.
As your group appears to grasp this tagging concept, introduce a second (and third….) ‘cat’ and ‘mouse’ into the mix for increased action and fun. Any cat can chase any mouse.
Stand back for lots of confusion, laughter and plenty of spontaneous, uninhibited fun. When ready, introduce one or more variations as described in the Variations tab.
Practical Leadership Tips
Notice I use the word ‘tag’ and not ‘tackle.’ Your language is one of our most potent tools, so beware the power your words can have on the behaviour of your group.
Naturally, your decision to introduce two or more mice must be based on clear evidence that your group is managing their safety wisely. If space is limited and/or your group has not yet developed a high level of safety-consciousness, re-consider your options. The game is perfectly fun with just one cat and mouse.
If you are actually involved in the game, simply invite the person who is currently linked to you to become the second or third, etc, cat or mouse, then commence the chase. You can do this without notice, but announce to your group that any cat can chase any mouse to avoid too much confusion.
Observe what happens when the second cat and mouse are introduced into the fray. Some folks will struggle with what appears to be a change in the rules, while others will relish the increased activity. Some folks prefer more structure, where others are happy to go with the flow. It’s never a wrong or a right, but this exercise may provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss the absence of structure (generally) on the level of your group’s enjoyment, not to mention, performance.
You could integrate Elbow 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 in different situations.
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
The manner in which individual group members participate in this fun tag game may open opportunities for your group to reflect on certain behavioural norms, not to mention social and interpersonal skills. For example, here are a few areas you could explore:
Describe the level of safety consciousness demonstrated by the group.
As an individual being chased, how did you make decisions about who to connect elbows with?
Were you more or less likely to connect with someone you knew or did not know? Why?
Was compassion or empathy expressed or demonstrated during the game?
In what ways were the needs of certain individuals accommodated, if at all?
Did you observe any behaviours that concerned you? How?
Can you reconcile these behaviours with your group’s full value agreement?
How important was it to successfully tag someone?
How did you cope as the game became more chaotic?
Link At Any Time: Permit the ‘cat’ to also seek shelter with a linked-pair at any time, and in so doing, create a new cat.
Limited Roles: To avoid a terminally long reign as a cat (or mouse,) announce that if a tag or link is not made within ten seconds (or 20 steps, etc,) the roles of the cat and mouse automatically reverse.
Take a look at Blob Tag to explore another whole-of-group tag game that features partners.
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One of my all-time favourite cartoons was Tom & Jerry – do you remember watching it on telly? Even though it seemed that Tom was never able to catch Jerry, it was fun to watch their shared shenanigans. If you could choose, which would you rather be – the cat or the mouse? Some people love to chase, while others like Jerry prefer the chase. This next exercise celebrates this famous rivalry as much as it gives you an opportunity to try out both roles…
Have you ever had the experience of one moment everything is cool, calm and collected, and then the next moment, all hell breaks loose? You never saw it coming, but it changed everything. This exact phenomenon is likely to occur to you in this next activity if you don’t watch closely…
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 fun whole-group tag game:
Did you prefer to be the the cat or the mouse? Why?
Were you taken by surprise at any point in the game? What happened?
Were there any behaviours that you observed which concerned you?
How did you respond when the game became more chaotic? Was this a good thing?
The inspiration for Elbow Tag, and many more whole-group tag games, was sourced from the following publication: