Running Games

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Tree Tag

Tree Tag: A species of tree is called out. Only a tree of this species is safe. You can stay by one for 10-20 seconds then must move to another. Pause after a few trees to teach some basic tree ID. 

Flash Flood

Flash Flood: “Flash Flood!” is yelled out. Everyone has about 5 seconds to get both feet off the ground or they will be swept away by the flood.


“Pterodactyl!” is called out. Everyone has 5 seconds to hide under a bush before the giant pre-historic bird scoops them up. Should be played in an area that has a lot of bush coverage so that two people don’t have to huddle under the same bush. Alternatively, more time can be given so that “prey” don’t have to cluster. 


Weasel Tree

Everyone picks a nearby tree that they like and stands next to it. One person has no tree, they are the weasels, everyone else are mice. When the mice make eye contact they must run and switch trees. The weasel tries to beat one of them to the tree. If they do, then they become a mouse, and the person left without a tree becomes the weasel. There is no talking allowed by the mice; they can only squeak to each other.

Sharks and Minnows (aka “Fishy, fishy cross my sea,” “Bear and Salmon,” or “Birds/Birdseed.”)

One person starts out in the middle of an area. Everyone else tries to cross the area without being tagged. If they are tagged they join the team of predators. 

  • Considerations for Success: This game is best played in an open area where people can really run. It’s a great game for campers with lots of energy. 
  • Suggestions for Framing: Frame the activity with a story or nature description. For example, if you call this game Bear and Salmon, you can talk about the pacific salmon trying to swim upstream past waiting grizzly bears. 
  • Potential Pitfalls: If the game is played in a brushy area with thorns, it’s hard to run around. The first person who is “it” is too slow and can’t tag anyone. 


Animals and Time

Everyone thinks of an animal and keeps it a secret. One person is in the middle and represents Time, the one thing that conquers everything. Time calls out different characteristics such as all animals with feathers or claws, etc. If your animal is called you try to cross the field to get by Time (just like fishy, fishy cross my sea). 

  • Considerations for Success: A great prelude to this game is to play animal charades, which gets everybody thinking about all kinds of animals. 
  • Suggestions for Framing: Wait until everyone has an animal in their mind and then tell them you are the one thing that will conquer all of them, what is it? 
  • Potential Pitfalls: Campers don’t run when their animal is called. 


Fire In The Forest (Another version of Animals and Time)

One person is the Fire, and begins in the center of the playing field. All other players choose 3–4 animals and tell the Fire the list (or an instructor or the Fire can choose the animals). Players self-select to be one of the animals. Fire calls out one of the animal names and all who have chosen that animal must run to the other side of the playing field without being tagged by the Fire. Players who are tagged become Burning Trees and must stand in place and try to tag other players. Play continues with the Fire calling out each animal group and trying to tag players crossing the field. The Fire can also call out “Fire in the forest!” and all players must try to cross the field at once— this may result in some players running one direction and others in the opposite direction. Play continues until one player is left, and they get to be the next Fire. 


Foraging Game

Divide into 2 or more groups. Each group tries to gather as many items as possible either from each other’s territory or from no-man’s-land while avoiding being tagged by each other. Examples gathering “wispies” or other supplies for making a fire. 


Preditor/Edible Game

In this game, the campers are a prey animal that has to go out into the wilds and gather hidden bandana balls (“food”). While they are gathering they are being hunted by a few instructors who are  cs. If captured they must forfeit any bandana balls they have gathered and wait to be “unfrozen.”

  • Considerations for Success: This game works best in areas with lots of places to hide. It can be played with a very large group or a small one. The predators should be very stealthy and ambush campers when they least suspect. 
  • Suggestion for Framing: This is an epic game reflecting the life and death struggles of wild animals as they forage and hunt. 
  • Potential Pitfalls: Campers will stay in the nest and not go out to forage. Predators goose guard the nest. 
Coyotes & Deer

There are one or two coyotes to start. Everyone else is a deer. If a deer is tagged, they turn into a coyote and hunt for deer. Often only a few deer survive once the balance between predator and prey is gone. 

  • Considerations for Success: This is a good ice-breaker game to start a day, as it gets people moving. After the game ask which deer survived and how (running or hiding). 
  • Suggestions for Framing: Coyotes eat deer; the deer then turn into coyotes as they are digested. The animals that survive are not necessarily the fastest but those that hide. What do real deer do all day and night? 
  • Potential Pitfalls: Campers can fall and get hurt, as this game involves lots of high speed chasing. People become unsure of who is a deer and who is a coyote. Use a prop like a bandana or have participants use symbols and sounds to distinguish. 



Wolves and Moose

Here the balance of Isle Royale’s unique ecosystem is replicated. There are wolves, adult moose, and calves. The wolves can kill a calf, but only attack an adult moose when paired up. The wolves can also be injured by an adult moose. The moose are trying to find food while protecting their young. 


Hawks & Songbirds

There is an item(s) hidden in the forest. It can be a flag, a snack, friction kit, etc. The songbirds must try to find it while they are being hunted by the hawks. They cannot be attacked if they are all together and only speaking in bird language unless they get too close to an “unseen” predator. 

  • Considerations for Success: This game is best played in a large area with lots of hiding places where predators can observe songbirds unseen. The item hidden can be moved during the game if it’s in too hard of a place. 
  • Suggestions for Framing: Many animals survive by sticking together and watching for danger with many eyes. Prey animals that stray off on their own are vulnerable. 
  • Potential Pitfalls: The item is hidden too well, or the item is found right away. Predators are easily seen and avoided leading to a lack of surprise and chase. 

Usually, this game is played with songbirds needing to hold hands or link arms to be considered together and thus safe. Instead have songbirds hold ends of sticks. 



Quest for Fire

Before matches, before friction kits, people went on a quest for fire to find wild fires. The campers go on this quest to find matches or friction kits while they are hunted by prehistoric predators (saber-tooth tigers, dire wolves, cave bears, etc.). 

  • Suggestions for Framing: Get the campers talking about the ice age. What was it like to live in a place like that? What were the animals like? How dangerous was it? 
  • Considerations for Success: The hunters need good hiding places from which they can really surprise the campers. This is the key to most predator/prey games. When the campers are truly being ambushed, they use their awareness. 
  • Potential Pitfalls: The matches are too well hidden (to fix this, secretly move them during the game). The hunters don’t hide and chase enthusiastically and it becomes less exciting for the campers. 
opossum Hunt

Two teams are designated as opossums and foxes. The opossum team has several minutes to hide. The fox team gets several minutes to seek. All the foxes have to do is see the opossums. Alternatively, they have to tag the opossums. Switch so each team gets a chance to hide. 

  • Suggestions for Framing: Talk about the amazing aspects of the opossum, as well as their relationship to dogs. 
  • Considerations for Success: A brushy area with lots of hiding places is a good area for this game. This game is also really fun at dusk or dark. 
Run Rabbit Run

Make 3 large circles out of backpacks, logs, or bandanas. Most of the campers are rabbits in any of the circles. A few people are foxes who move around outside of the circles. When the signal is given, all the rabbits must leave their circle and find safety in another one. If they are tagged by a fox, they become a fox. 

Capture the Flag

There are many variations of this classic game. The basic version is two teams, each with their own territory and jails. They try to steal each other’s flags and get them back on their own side. If caught, they go to jail. 

The Torch of Illumination

There are three teams in three different camps. They try to sneak into another team’s camp without being tagged and touch an instructor that is waiting there. If they succeed they are given a match. They take this match back to their camp and light a fire. Somewhere in the woods is hidden a torch. First team to light the torch with their fire wins.

Everybody's It Tag

Everybody’s ‘it.’ If you get tagged, you lie down and can only come up when the person who tagged you is tagged. If two people tag each other at the same time they do rock, paper, scissors to settle it. A variation is to say that people who are down can crawl around and tag people

Fox Tails

One or two people are Foxes and have bandanas hanging from their belts in back. Everyone else tries to steal the bandanas without being tagged. If Foxes tag them they are frozen. When someone successfully steals a bandana they become a Fox and get to wear the ‘fox tail.’ 

  • Considerations for Success: Depending on the number of people, you may want to have one, two, or three people with fox tails. This game can be played in the woods or the open. 
  • Suggestions for Framing: This is a game of quickness and reactions. It can be framed as ninja training. And if the person with the tail freezes everyone, then they are the master ninja. 
  • Potential Pitfalls: The person with the flag runs too far away, making it impossible for anyone to steal the flag. 
  • Tricky with trying to get in close proximity. Could use longer “tails” by tying a couple of bandanas together. Tagging could be done with bandana balls. 


Ultimate Fox (Fox Tails expansion pack):

Create an option for a fox to gain two tails, and additional powers such as the ability to freeze players without tagging them. Additional levels can be established, such as:

  • Warrior Fox: A fox with two tails can freeze a player by pointing to them and calling their name. 
  • MegaFox: A fox with three tails can… 
  • Ultimate Fox: A fox with four tails can…