Gather your group to stand on one side of a large, wide playing space.
Each person aims to run to the opposite side and back as many times as possible without being tagged.
Invite a volunteer to stand in the middle of the space (the Octopus) whose goal is to tag as many of the rest of the group as they can.
When ready, the Octopus will call “GO” urging the group to run to the other side.
Each person who is successfully tagged by the Octopus will become a part of the tagging team.
New members of the tagging team will be restricted to tag others from the spot they were tagged.
The original Octopus is entitled to move anywhere at all times.
Play continues until all members of the group are tagged.
How To Play Narrative
Looking for another ‘wear-them-out’ exercise? This is it.
Gather your group on one side of a large, wide hall or playing field. Announce that their individual and collective goal is to run to the opposite side and back as many times as possible without being tagged.
Invite one person from the group to volunteer to be the first Octopus. They will stand somewhere in the middle of the wide and foreboding expanse of the designated playing space.
When ready, the initial Octopus will call “GO” and urge everyone to cross (run) to the other side. Typically they will manage to tag one or more people, but most will escape.
Let’s say that on the first pass the Octopus manages to tag three people from the group. This may seem like a loss (when you consider that dozens more escaped) but they have now effectively recruited three more people to their cause.
Much like an octopus, eight arms for tagging are better than two! The tagging team now consists of four people, with one proviso.
Unlike the initial Octopus who is always entitled to move anywhere within the area, all new octopi must remain on the ‘spot’ where they were tagged. They are entitled to pivot on one foot from this ‘spot’ to reach a passing person, but otherwise, their movements are restricted.
Play continues, with the group passing from one side to the other until everyone is tagged.
Obviously, with each pass, it gets exponentially harder to escape the grasp of the growing team of octopi. To this end, be sure to celebrate the final out-of-breath person – it’s quite a feat.
Practical Leadership Tips
As with all tag games, ensure the playing space is free of trip hazards and is relatively flat.
Beware your language. Couch your description of a ‘tag’ as a simple and compassionate touching of another person, rather than a grab-and-tackle-them-to-the-ground kind of thing.
To set up multiple passes, it is critical to choose a very wide playing space, lest the whole group is tagged within 2 or 3 passes which is not as much fun.
Clearly designate the ‘safe’ areas at opposite ends of the space, lest you invite a plethora of arguments about who was successfully tagged, or not.
You could integrate Octopus Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group 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 good dose of physical activity and exercise.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to interact and engage physically with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of safety consciousness that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Octopus Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Sitting Octopus: As above, but the newly tagged person must sit on the floor or ground where they were tagged as they attempt to tag others in the group passing them. This will clearly restrict the movements of the octopi, often permitting more passes.
Nominated Passes: Any one person from the ‘tagging’ team (or perhaps the initial Octopus) will announce in advance how the group must cross the area for the next pass, eg skipping, jumping, hopping on one leg, run sideways, etc. To ramp up the challenge and fun, require the Octopus to move in the same manner.
Tag With A Purpose: Announce that the group’s ultimate goal is to preserve (ie not tag) two people at the end, one male and one female (or two other distinctions of any kind.) This variation will involve a lot more strategy to ensure that these two ‘types’ of people are kept safe until the very end.
Bigger & Bigger: Take a look at Blog Tag and Monarch Tag to enjoy more exponentially scaled tag games for big groups.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It’s always nice to know that no matter the abilities of my group, there will always be activities which present a challenge to suit each and every person. This next exercise is one such activity…
Do you understand the concept of exponential? It means a rapidly growing rate of increase. In many fields exponential growth is a good thing, such as business and finance, while in others it’s not such a great thing, for example, the spread of some forms of cancer. In this next exercise, your perspective of good or bad will depend heavily on which side of the game you stand…
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 tag game:
In the beginning, what did the odds of tagging someone, or being tagged look like?
How quickly did these odds change?
What strategies did you observe that helped people be successful?
Were there any behaviours that concerned you, or deserve being celebrated?
Where else have you experienced exponential growth?
Where might exponential growth be useful in your life or work?
The inspiration for Octopus Tag, and many more crazy fun tag games, was sourced from the following publication: