Statue Tag from Chris Cavert

Chris Cavert’s new book Portable Teambuilding Activities (working title) will be available in 2014. The following activity is one of over 60 offerings from this book. Follow us on Twitter (@WNBBooks) for the release date and notices of more Experiential Education postings.


Activity Objective: Avoid being the “IT” during the game while the IT wants to transfer his or her “IT” to someone else.

Facilitated Objective: Explore behaviors related to playfulness, following directions, active engagement/participation, strategizing, risk, challenge with choice, and integrity.

NEEDS & NUMBERS: The only real optional equipment you could use for this one would be boundary markers to indicate the corners of your playing area if you think your group needs these parameters. This one plays well with 12 to 25 participants.

TIME: 10 to 15 minutes

PROCEDURE: The Beta testing of Statue Tag has brought about some interesting discoveries – so, it might not have reached it’s final stages (does any activity ever do?). If you come up with additional considerations for this one, please let me know.

  • Set up a spacious boundary area (using physical markers or simply point out the area) and make sure everyone knows where said boundaries are (after you finish reading this you’ll have a better idea about the space you’ll need).
  • Have your group circle up.
  • You are going to do one of those “blind picks” to determine who will be IT first (if you have more than 15 people playing, I suggest you pick two ITs). Ask everyone to close her or his eyes. Say something like this: “If you are willing to be IT for this tag-type activity – without knowing anything about the game just yet – raise your hand in the air until I tell you all to put them down. I will walk around the outside of the circle and squeeze the left shoulder of the person(s) who will start off being IT. You will be the secret IT to start our game, so don’t tell anyone.”
  • Now, (you the facilitator) walk around the outside of the circle and squeeze a person’s (or persons’) shoulder to indicate they are IT – make sure they feel it. After choosing the IT(s) ask all the players to put down their hands and open their eyes so you can explain the rest of the directions (in this variation, as noted above, the IT(s) have no idea what they are getting themselves into).
  • Here’s how it (and IT) works. Seeing as this is a tag game you are going to ask the players to stay within the boundary area to make it fair.
  • The IT(s) of course does not want to be IT so she or he intends to pass off the IT to someone else by safely tagging another player above the waist.
  • To be SAFE from the IT, non-IT players must stand completely still while making a fun statue-like pose. When players strike such a pose (in order to avoid being tagged) they must also have their eyes closed while they are standing still. If a player opens her or his eyes, she or he must take at least three steps, in any direction, away from where she or he is standing before they are allowed to go into a frozen statue again (in order to be safe from the tag). Taking more than three steps is perfectly legal; taking less steps is not.
  • Now, the player that is IT has strategic options during this game. IT can be a statue just like everyone else. However, IT is allowed to peek while frozen in place hoping to tag an unsuspecting passer-by. Again, tags are “nice” tags above the waist (on an appropriate part of the body – some groups need to know this!). ITs can also simply walk around within the boundary area, eyes open of course, pretending to be “just any other player” and tag someone in passing. In any case, the ITs will need to use cunning and stealth to pass off the IT. Once an IT is NOT IT, she or he follows the not-IT rules of play.

If there are two ITs in the game there is an extra cognitive task for the ITs. If an IT gets tagged by the other IT, the tagged IT is now “double IT.” This means that this double IT must tag two other players before she or he is no longer IT. Yes, this might get a bit confusing, so “the right group at the right time” fits here. If you end up with lots of ITs, ITs just more fun! I’ve also seen games end up with no ITs – something else to talk about. Could a player just be a statue the entire game (statue-by-choice here)? Of course; however, I don’t tell them this ahead of time. I like to see how the game plays out. Again, its something great to talk about in the end.
Make sure to emphasize the point that if a non-IT player’s eyes open she or he must take at least three steps before a safe statue can be made again. Now, the IT could just circle around one player waiting for opened eyes, but, in the spirit of play, this might not be the “playfulest” choice (then again…). You might also ask the group to play through this activity in silence – so as to prevent people calling out the name of the IT when discovered (or you could just ask them not to call out IT’s name). As the facilitator – considering your group – you can decide how you want to frame it.
This has been, for me, a very interesting activity to watch. It seems to go well in rounds of about three to five minutes. There have been times when I have presented a short one-minute game and then ask if anyone needs clarification on the directions. Once we’re clear, we play a longer round.

Since I present Statue Tag as more of a strategic enterprise, I have not (to this date) witnesses any physical safety issues with this one. Also, I have yet to encounter any emotional safety issues beyond some anxiety participants have experienced when they are in the “eyes-closed” portion of the activity – “I got so nervous I almost peed my pants!” (true statement). There is some perceived risk that shows up with closing one’s eyes, but I always watch the crowd and stop the activity if needed.

Initially why were people willing to be IT without knowing what they would be doing?
What “risks” did you encounter in the game?
Did you feel safe during the game? Why? Why not?
Did you ever peek (when not IT), and decide not to move? Why do you think you decided to peek? Why did you decide not to move?
How did it feel to be IT? What strategies did you use to get a tag off?
Did anyone choose to be a statue the entire time? Why? Why not?
What might the IT represent in “real” life? Why would you want to be IT? Why would you not want to be IT?
What “risk” in your life are you avoiding at this time? How much “energy” are you spending avoiding the risk? Is the energy spent worth it or not? What might you do about this situation?

Add foam pool noodle toys, giving each player a noodle toy to tag and add into their statue forms.

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