Distribute one bandana/light-weight scarf to each person.
Instruct each person to tuck the tail of the bandana inside the waistband of their trousers/shorts, and at least 2/3 of the cloth must be visible and grabbable.
When ready, everyone aims to snatch the tail attached to as many people as possible, while also attempting to avoid having their tail stolen.
Challenge each person to collect (and wear) as many tails as possible.
When someone steals a tail, they must tuck it into his/her waistband within five seconds.
When a person loses their tail, they must immediately kneel down.
If kneeling, a person may re-enter the game if they are able to snag the tail of an unsuspecting passerby.
Continue playing for 2 to 5 minutes, or until only one person is left standing (wearing all the tails.)
How To Play Narrative
This tag is sure to boost the energy of your group and appeal to its competitive spirit. Gifting humans with detachable tails can also bring up some surprising behaviours and creative manoeuvres!
First up, set the boundaries for play. Generally, the smaller the play area, the more active the game will be.
Gather your group close together and distribute one ‘tail’ (bandana or light-weight scarf) to each person. Then, accompanied by a demonstration, explain the subtle rules of having a ‘tail.’
Announce that tails (bandanas/scarves) must be tucked inside the waistband of each person’s trousers or shorts only. At least two-thirds of the tail must be visible (not hidden under a sweatshirt) and ‘grab-able’ at all times (ie, not tied to a belt loop.)
Explain that the aim of the game is to collect and wear as many tails as possible.
On “GO” everyone aims to snatch the tail of as many people as possible, while also attempting to avoid having their tail stolen. Oh, by the way, it is completely legal to grab more than one tail from someone’s waistband in a single swipe!
When an individual snags a new tail, he or she must tuck it into their waistband within five seconds.
A person without a tail is asked to kneel down and play the game from this stationary position. If they are able to snag the tail of an unsuspecting passerby, they are entitled to tuck it into their waistband and re-enter the game.
Continue playing for 2 to 5 minutes, or until only one sly person is left standing (with all the tails.)
Play a second round, or try something new (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Please note, this tag is not a full-contact sport. Quick turns and shifts in position will help to keep your tail out of reach – but swatting, hand blocking, grabbing a tail from someone’s hand, or holding onto a tail as it is being snatched are prohibited.
If playing indoors, bandanas/scarves can be slippery if left on the ground.
It doesn’t happen often, but if a tail hits the floor (because it was dropped,) anyone can pick it up.
If your play area is too big, you may find the action stagnates because it’s too easy to avoid those people who are kneeling (have been eliminated) preventing these poor folk from re-entering the game.
If your group is likely to be distracted as soon as you distribute the bandanas, explain the game first and then distribute. Indeed, this is true of any prop used in a game.
Like most tag games, it is only as fun as it is playful. If the competition gets too intense or aggressive behaviours surface, pause the play. At this juncture, you may consider discussing the impact of such actions with your group, or perhaps chat about some ways that your group enjoyed having tails and how they may have been troublesome!
You could integrate Tail 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 burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus 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 Tail Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Sharing: Invite people to gift a tail to someone who is kneeling, thereby bringing this person back into the action. This small variation can dramatically shift the power dynamics of the game and can be a great way to celebrate empathy and keep more people engaged. Because tails aren’t so hard to come by, this variation often results in increased risk-taking and shared fun. Note, in rare cases, a player will gift a tail before the option of this variation is given. This variation offers you a wonderful opportunity to discuss issues of respect, sharing and bullying as they pertain to your group.
Vary The Space: Expand or shrink the boundaries (within reason.)
Sudden-Death Elimination: Set up the game as an elimination, whereby as soon as a person loses their tail(s,) they are out of the game.
Team Tail Tag: Assign each person to two or more teams. The team which holds the most number of tails within the allotted time, or is the first to steal all of the tails, wins.
Multiple Lives: Start with more than one tail per person.
Unique Tails: Take a look at Balloon Tag and Dragon Tail Tag to enjoy two wonderful tag games which endow your group with different types of tails.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an animal with a really cool tail? In this game, your tail will grow, shrink, change colour, and even disappear as you play tag with the other animals in our group…
This unusual tag game may bring out the ‘animal instinct’ within you…
Many young mammals learn important life skills through playful interactions with each other, so let’s play with this spirit of fun and learning, starting with growing a tail…
This game will help us to better understand social power. We will experience power-stealing and power-sharing as related to bullying…
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:
What did you noticed during the tag game?
How did the power shift from the beginning to the end of the game?
What did it feel like to take a tail?
What did it feel like to have your tail taken?
How might this game be similar to or different from bullying?
Did you feel respected? Why or why not?
Provide examples of behaviours that communicated respect, or disrespect.
If you try the Sharing variation (see Variations tab,) you may find value in these questions:
Was this sharing round more fun for you? How was it different?
Did you choose to give a tail away? How that feel?
Did you receive a tail? How did that feel?
Did anyone want to get back at someone or pay someone back during the game? How does this relate to bullying or bullying prevention?
Have you ever supported someone who seemed powerless in everyday life?
Have you ever been supported by someone when you felt powerless?
Did this game make you think about how you treat each other?
The inspiration for Tail Tag, and many more fun run-around games, was sourced in the following publication: