Let’s Play: Winter Flashlight Tag

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Tag in the Snowy Darkness

Looking for something to spark play and get you moving in the middle of a long, cold winter? How about flashlight tag… in the snow!

My daughter and I are finding it hard to get ourselves outside to play this month. The initial, “Yeah! It’s a snow day!” thrill is disappearing as the winter goes on. Sunny days and more hours of early daylight are fooling us into thinking we can try to head out minus the necessary hats, mittens and scarves. She has grown tired of the gear and bundling time needed to enjoy the cold and snow.

“Mom, we could just stay in to snuggle up to read or make something inside.”

“Kiddo, we should get a bit of fresh air. Let’s at least go for a walk or sled ride. I’ll pull you.”

The moans and groans commence.

So here I go. Time to add spark to a long, cold winter and get us moving. What outdoor games are they playing at lunch recess? Tag, over and over. September to June. The second graders always have a new game of tag going. The rules are always changing. They go well beyond the freeze tag and boys vs. girls tag games I remember. Some rules are constant. No hitting or pulling each other over. Other rules are in flux. The idea of a base/rest spot/safe zone constantly changes. Seems you can just declare anything base, if you yell it loud right before you get tagged.

I searched “tag games” online. Who knew? Hundreds of versions exist. Many seem to be games altered and reborn at summer camps. Amoeba, Back to Back, Band-Aid, Bees and Butterflies, Blindman’s Bluff, Blob, Boiler Burst, Bronco, Bump, Bumper, Car Lot, Catch One, Clothes-pin, Cooperation, Cyclops, Dead Ant, Dirty Diaper, Dr Octopus, Elbow, Everybody’s it, Fainting Goat, Flip the Bird, Flour Sack, Foot to Foot, Freeze, Giants, Wizards and Elves, Go-Tag, Head and Tails, Help, Hospital, Hug, Icicle, Meltdown, Ninja Time, Otters and Clams, Pizza Game, Reverse, Secret, Sharks and Minnows, Skunk, Slow Motion, Sunny Day Shadow, Tandem, Toilet, Tortoise, Tree, Triangle, TV and Werewolf for starters…

I am often asked if we can go to the laser tag place at the mall. I keep putting this off. You need at least four to make it fun. It gets expensive to take a car full of buddies. But laser tag with flashlights after dark in the yard is free! I grew up calling this flashlight tag. Call the buddies or have the kiddo text them (Age 8 and being able to read and spell has brought an interest in texting buddies through parents’ phones.). All we needed was a simple message, Bring a flashlight to our house after dinner.

Agree on a set of rules. Pick a spot with little, if any lighting, lots of hiding spaces and room to run. Choose who is it and give them a flashlight. Count while everyone else hides. The IT person must shine their light on someone and call out their name. The new IT person is the one caught first. Start the game again.

After a few rounds, tag is the snowy darkness turned into exploring the area by flashlight. Running in the deep snow is tiring. Good. The neighborhood at night is a whole new experience. We played silly jokes and found many new hiding places before we walked neighbors home and marching inside for a warm bath for her, and hot tea for me!


Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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