Standing with their feet about shoulder-width apart, each person faces their partner and places their hands on their own knees.
Each person attempts to touch the unguarded knee of their partner as often as possible to score a point.
After 20 seconds, the person with the most points wins.
Start a new round, swap partners, or try a variation.
Video Transcript for Knee Tag Game presented by Mark Collard
First of all can I ask for a partner to step forward? I’ll show you what’s about to happen. Who would like to come forward? Really, Kate, fantastic.
So facing off, first of all, we’re going to be with our own feet apart and fixed in position and probably less than a metre away, maybe even a little bit closer. With our own hands on our knees, we’ll start in this position. Here’s the object, Kate. Oh, I’ll need to ask for another volunteer!
Here’s my plan, and it’s the same as Katie’s, is that we plan to tag each other’s knees as often as possible. You get a point for every time you get to tag an unguarded knee. So right now mine are not guarded. Oh, for a moment I went like oh, I did it again. So anytime I let go of my knees, you could actually make a tag.
So I’m going to come a little bit closer. That’s right, exactly. So when you’re ready, the game starts now.
Okay. You got the idea? Okay. For a quick 20-second round, how many times can you tag your partner’s knee in that period of time? Go.
(people playing Knee Tag game)
Five more seconds. Five seconds.
Alright. Good, good. Now at this point you’re going, “Well, great game.” The first 12 seconds you already had like 16 tags of your own knees. It didn’t work too well. It might be that your partner had much longer reach than you. So we’re going to change it up a bit.
You’re now entitled to move your feet. So if you feel like they’re about to make a tag, you can move your knee out of the way. Again, a quick 20-second round with your partner. Feel free to fill the space here. Go! You can now move your feet.
(people playing Knee Tag game)
You might have noticed in the process of this activity, if you couldn’t actually get your own partner’s knees, they weren’t anywhere close to you, you might have noticed that there were other knees around you that were.
Now, you might start with your partner, but if you find another knee that’s unguarded right next to you, feel free to make a point. So you can now tag anyone’s knee. You’re not restricted just to your partner. Go!
(people playing Knee Tag game.)
You may or may not have been more successful. A good observation, when I noticed that anyone could actually tag you, there’s a lot more of this going on. No one’s gonna get me, no one’s gonna get me.
Alright that’s a strategy so now we change it up. I’m now going to give you the next instruction, it will only last 15 or 20 seconds at the most, is that you will start in the hands down position, which means you are entitled to guard your knees.
However, when you hear the instruction yelled out by me, “Hands up”, you must put your hands up. Now you can bring them down to make a tag, but that means you cannot guard your own knees.
Hands up, and then when I say “Hands down”, you are entitled to guard your knees. So it’s “Hands up”, “Hands down” all the way through. It starts in a ‘Hands down’ position. Are you ready? Go!
Ask everyone to find a partner who has knees that look like theirs.
Of course, this is a completely frivolous request, because all you really need are lots of pairs, but observing the brief pursuit of knee comparison is worth it. To this end, any other method to locate a random partner will suffice.
Standing with their feet about shoulder-width apart, each person faces their partner about a metre (3’) away and bends down slightly to place their hands on their knees.
Each combatant eyes the other eagerly and on “GO” the action begins.
A score is made when one person tags the undefended knee of the other, ie their partner does not have a hand on that knee for a split second. Naturally, in order to make a tag, a person’s hand must vacate their knee, so they are vulnerable to attack as well.
A round lasts no more than 20-30 seconds. The person who scores the most ‘tags’ upon their partner’s knees wins. Start a new round, or swap partners.
Having grasped this basic set-up, look to the Variations tab, because there is so much more available to you.
Practical Leadership Tips
Safety note – caution your group to watch their heads all throughout this knee tag game. All of the focus is on the knees and hands, thus there may be a tendency to forget about the possibility of bumping heads as people dart about to prevent being tagged.
Rounds of longer than 30 seconds are not a good idea, because people are bending over awkwardly for long periods of time.
Make light of Mr or Ms Smarty-pants who, you observe, think that if they never take their hands off their knees they can’t lose. Perhaps. But what a boring way to play the game, not to mention, live your life.
Owing to the numerous variations of this activity, I like to announce to my group between rounds that if they have not tasted success yet, that elusive tag may become more accessible in the next round.
You could integrate Knee 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 across 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
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort and focus required to safely play this fun tag game speaks to the benefits of developing a set of positive and healthy behavioural norms. For example, you could expect a high correlation between the level of safety consciousness in your group and the degree to which everyone enjoys playing the game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Knee Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Moving Pairs: Keeping with this same partner, allow individuals to move from their fixed lead-footed position, perhaps to escape their opponent’s reach.
Interlocked Fingers: As above, but at all times while their feet are moving, an individual must interlock their fingers in front of them (other then when attempting a tag.) Ah, yes, this means that their knees are very open to being tagged.
Everyone Is It: Introduce the ability for people to tag any undefended knees, ie those belonging to people moving about them. Remember, all moves (ie your feet are moving) must be made with interlocked fingers.
Hands-Up: Call “HANDS UP” to cause everyone to hold their hands above their heads and not ever defend their knees. They may, of course, choose to lower a hand to make a committed tag of any exposed knees. Shortly after, call “HANDS DOWN” to allow people once again guard their knees, until the next “HANDS UP” and so on.
Fast-paced whole group tag game with many surprises.
Ideal partner tag exercise for groups with limited space.
Energetic, large group energiser for wide open spaces.
Useful Framing Ideas
Adventure is all about unanticipated outcomes, that is, you cannot know or predict with certainty what exactly will happen next. And taking a risk is an integral part of undertaking an adventure. Such is life. Yet, many of us work hard to not take too many risks, lest we get hurt or fail or look foolish. You can take this approach to the next activity, and observe what happens…
The only way to get results is if you take action. Sure, it is possible that you may not like the results you get if you take a particular action, but you’ll always get a result. Whereas, if you don’t do anything (which, by the way, is an action,) you’ll never get any results (which again, is a result – no change.) Keep this universal truth in mind as you participate in this knee tag 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 fun tag game:
Were you successful? How do you define your success?
Did you have fun? Why or why not?
What did you notice during the course of each round? What did you make this mean?
Did you observe any behaviours which you thought could impact on the overall enjoyment of the activity?
The inspiration for Knee Tag, and many more energetic tag games, can be found in the following publications: