Tag is one of the most popular outdoor activities here. Hardly a day goes by without at least one game of tag. The problem with tag is the size of my yard. The total playspace is just 20 feet by 30 feet and most of that is filled with obstacles. The largest open area is just 10 feet by 10 feet.
The youngest children in the group have no problem with the space restrictions when the older children are not here. For them the game is mostly about running around laughing and having fun. The older ones tend to be more competative and manipulative – often reckless in their attempt to ensure victory.
Although we have gone to the park to play tag in a bigger space they still like to play tag here too. With our limited space and the vast difference in the childrens’ physical size the game is unfair.
To level the playing field we tried something different. Instead of running, all the players must keep both feet together and hop;
We’ve also added a rule about using only one finger to tag in order to combat the problem with punching or slapping instead of tagging. A couple of the children don’t like this rule claiming ‘it hurts their finger to tag like that’ — those that are being tagged like it much better.
The children have also created a game they call ‘Quiet Tag’. In this version the child who is it stands still in the middle of the walkway with their eyes closed. The other children try to get sneak from one end of the walkway to the other and back without getting tagged.
You have to be really quiet when you pass by because if ‘It’ hears you they can easily reach out and tag you. Those who get tagged are added to It’s team until there is only one person left trying to sneak by several ‘Its’ standing on the walkway.
Tag is definitely their favorite game.
We’ve been going outside twice each day. I take the younger preschoolers out to play in the yard after morning snack – this was our usual outdoor time but we eliminated it for the fall and winter because it interfered with the baby’s nap schedule. Now he is older and naps later. The older preschoolers attend school in the morning so I take the whole group outside to play in the afternoon once everyone is up from their nap.
Introducing babies to outdoor play is always an exciting time particularly when they are not yet walking. Being so close to the ground with all those new and interesting tiny objects they require close supervision. There was a period early in my career when my yard was ‘baby proofed’ and so uninspiring that no one wanted to play outside.
Now it is fascinating with so many places to explore, things to discover and challenges to overcome – for everyone, including me. The baby’s first experience with gravel was sitting and putting gravel on a stump, brushing it off and then putting more on — over and over again for 40 minutes! I watched and I was fascinated too. Only once has he ‘tasted’ gravel and hedecided it wasn’t nearly as fun as making gravel rain and filling buckets with gravel etc. Now he has discovered the soil in the garden. 🙂
Yesterday was also the return of another old game – ‘Running from the Monster’. Sigh. They love this game but the outcome is inevitable. We’ve been through it so many times before. In the mixed age group they have all had a turn at being ‘the Monster’. It always starts when the youngest child is just becoming mobile and is drawn to where the other children are playing. One of the older children will send out the alarm and the others will join in “The monster is coming, the monster is coming!” They will then run around screaming and waving their arms. The baby will squeal with delight and follow them.
Essentially it is a game of tag. The baby is ‘it’ but has no chance of ever winning the game. For the others it is a demonstration of power. Everyone loves this game. Even though I know what the future holds I also know that banning the game will not solve the unavoidable outcome. There will come a day – probably sometime next summer – when the baby will realize that the others are not playing with him.
When that time comes there will be a period of turmoil. Now a toddler with new verbal skills the youngest child will wail ‘They won’t let me play’. The others will giggle and say they are – he is the monster – they will insist it is his favourite game. They all know it is not his favourite game anymore. They have all been ‘the Monster’ at some point in the past.
We will have discussions about name calling and bullying and excluding others from play. There will be attempts to redefine the game and change the ‘Monster’ name to that of a character in the popular movie or show of the time. That will work briefly until the youngest one realizes that he is still the one everyone is running away from. He is still not part of the group. Eventually it will become ‘tag’ a everyone will be equal again.
Yes, I know it is coming. I also know I can’t prevent it. I will be ready to help them work through it when we get there. For now they all think that ‘Running from the Monster’ is the greatest game ever.