Tag remains a classic and enjoyable game for kids and adults around the world. There’s just something about being chased and chasing that makes people of all ages giggle and shriek in excitement as they take turns pretending to be prey or predator.
Apart from fun and enjoyment, the game of tag has countless benefits and advantages for your child. From getting them moving and grooving for physical development to stimulating their brains and improving their emotional intelligence – it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of child’s play.
Let’s explore 18 benefits and advantages your children get from playing tag and its variations.
1. Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills entangle the motion and use of large muscle groups in the body, promoting walking, running, climbing, sitting upright, and throwing. Developing motor skills in childhood promotes an active lifestyle. Preschoolers aged 3–5 years are in a crucial stage for developing motor skill competence.
Physical activity is consistently associated with motor skill competence. The game of tag involves physical activity, which helps build your child’s motor skills as they run, balance, and pivot while chasing or being chased.
2. Fundamental Movement Skills
Did you know that we don’t acquire movement skills naturally? Unlike motor development, a child does not develop movement skills in the process of growing or maturation. These skills have to be introduced, taught, and practiced to reach a level of mastery or movement proficiency.
Encouraging play through a game of tag is an effective motor skill intervention that improves fundamental movement skills in children. Tag will help your kids learn basic movements that encourage them to stay active even in later years.
3. Learning to Cooperate
Some tag variants have rules encouraging players to escape by avoiding getting tagged while also helping their peers who have been tagged or are escaping. Such a variant is Nakama-oni, also known as helping tag.
In the modern world where individualism is at heightened levels, encouraging cooperation and helping behaviors is vital for maintaining society and happiness. Playing tag can help your child learn how to work with others by promoting cooperation towards a single goal.
4. Cultivating Morality
In daily life, children don’t always have the option of choosing to accept or deny rules. They have to follow the rules you give them with blind obedience even when they don’t understand the reason for the given rules.
However, playing a game of tag allows them to be self-regulating. It provides autonomy to create and voluntarily accept and submit to rules. This helps develop their moral convictions. They can find out for themselves what happens when they don’t follow game rules.
5. Learning to Lose Gracefully
No one likes a sore loser who throws a tantrum when things don’t go their way. Managing emotions that come with losing can be an uphill task for children and adults alike. Teaching a child to lose gracefully can help them lose with dignity even when they grow up.
The tag game allows all participants to occasionally take turns winning and losing or becoming the hunter and the prey. Children learn good sportsmanship that helps them realize that winning or losing is part of the fun and isn’t a big deal.
6. Promoting Healthy Risks
Today’s parents can be described as helicopters, always hovering above their children. We live in an age of fear where children spend more time being supervised and less time playing independently. Such risk-free childhoods inhibit the child’s individual growth into a confident and capable person.
Tag involves rough and tumbles play which enables your child to take risks in a relatively safe environment. It’s a fundamental way of helping them figure out how the world and their bodies work. It helps develop their resilience, confidence, and risk management skills.
7. Developing Sensory Integration
Sensory integration refers to brain processes that allow us to take in information from the five senses, organize it and use it in activities. A child with sensory processing deficits will have difficulties that affect their life skills, balance, motor skills, and eye-hand coordination.
Participating in a game of tag promotes sensory integration as it requires the coordination of various sensory inputs. The child has to maintain balance and not fall when running and use their visual perception skills when dodging and reaching out to tag other players.
8. Spatial Awareness
Spatial awareness involves your ability to be aware of where objects and people are in space and the position of your body with them. It makes it possible for children to be conscious of the things in their environment. This is helpful in locations, movement, reading, writing, and mathematics.
Some children may have difficulties developing spatial awareness skills. Tag can be beneficial in teaching body awareness and control. The child understands the concept of where and in which direction to move while avoiding obstacles and the taggers!
9. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence involves being emotionally aware and is vital for the development of empathy. You have to learn it through observation and experience, and it’s not something that can be easily taught. As an abstract concept, children often find it hard to grasp and have to be guided.
Tag encourages the development of emotional intelligence since they’re guided not to inflict harm on others or be too rough. Variations like helping tag involve concepts of empathy towards others where participants are encouraged to help their peers escape.
10. Athletic Development
Opportunities for kids to develop as athletes have dwindled over the years, while others have become skewed by unrealistic expectations. On the one hand, schools have eliminated or reduced playtime, while on the other, parents and coaches are pushing their children to train as adults.
However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. A simple game of tag encompasses the intensity and speed required for athletic development. Do you want your child to learn how to run fast, improvise, change directions and develop reactive agility? Engage them in a game of tag.
11. Cognitive Development
All kinds of play, including the rough and tumble of tag, increase brain development and growth. Children learn as they play. They learn how to relate with others, calibrate their muscles and bodies, and think abstractly. A common phrase is that children learn how to learn as they play.
Tag enables kids to acquire a general mindset towards solving problems as they play. They have to develop and apply appropriate strategies that will help them avoid being tagged or make it easy to tag others. This includes continually switching directions, moving to open spaces, or staying alert of taggers.
12. Promoting Fairness
Fairness involves honesty and impartiality that conforms to the established rules. It’s an essential foundation of morality and acceptable behavior. However, it can be incredibly challenging for young children to understand.
Playing tag can help children understand the concept of fairness. It involves taking turns, negotiating agreements on rules and trust, which are all essential elements of fairness. Each child has to follow the game’s rules, and there’s an equal chance of being the tagger or ‘it’ and the runner.
13. Encouraging Diversity
Play is instrumental in leveling the playing field among participants across culture, language, ability, status, or age. Every child is born open-minded and accepting of everybody. As they get older, they notice the differences, and it’s up to adults to model acceptance of diversity.
Tag is an effective way of encouraging such acceptance. It brings together children from diverse backgrounds to develop friendships as they grow. They learn to play successfully with others, following a similar set of rules regardless of background.
14. Relieving Stress
Participating in a tag game promotes joy for everyone involved. Most parents do all in their power to ensure their children are happy. Tag can improve different aspects of emotional well-being, like reducing depression, anxiety, fear, and irritability.
Tag can increase calmness, adaptability, resilience, and the ability to deal with change and surprises in children. As they chase each other, they excite the limbic system, the brains’ reward center, and receive a rush of dopamine, the happiness hormone.
15. Improving Academic Achievement
Playing in an unstructured environment develops the intellectual constructs of a child. Engaging in a game of tag in between classes or at recess can make children more productive and attentive in the classroom.
Research shows that optimal cognitive processing requires a period of interruption after a period of concentrated instruction. Schools that offer more recess for young children also show increased academic success among their students.
Free play encourages creativity, and there’s no greater form of free play than tag. Playful curiosity is inherent in all children, and adults too are more creative when they imagine themselves as children free of the responsibilities of adulthood.
Tag has inspired creativity in kids for centuries, which is evident in the mere number of variations of the game in different cultures. Albert Einstein described “playing as the highest form of research”. All kids need is a bit of space, and they can just create their own game anywhere at any time.
17. Teaching Consent
Tag is very effective at teaching kids about boundaries. Right from the beginning, the children have to agree on whether they’ll participate or not. It models consent very well as the kids understand that a player can opt-out at any time.
The moment the dynamic of the game changes, children will opt out or quit. It also serves to teach the children who are too rough a vital lesson on following social rules. Eventually, the aggressive ones are isolated from the group and experience a social exclusion similar to being ‘it.’
18. Executive Functioning
Executive functioning includes a set of mental skills like flexible thinking, working memory, and self-control. It allows you to maintain attention, filter out distracting details, improve self-regulation, and have cognitive flexibility.
Tag provides all these as core benefits in children. They have to be attentive to avoid getting tagged, filter out distractions, so they don’t fall while running, and have the mental flexibility of changing directions at a moment’s notice.
With all these advantages and benefits, it’s clear why tag has passed the test of time and remained relevant across cultures worldwide. It’s pure unadulterated fun guaranteed to put a smile on your child’s face while flexing their physical and mental muscles.