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Tag! You’re It!

A Lincoln Kid (at heart) Looks Back

There comes a time when you play games with your neighborhood friends for the last time, and you don’t realize it’s the last. And then, years later, seemingly out of nowhere, you realize you’re part of the older generation, and it’s now your duty to pass on the grand tradition of games to the new kids on the block. Such has been the experience of this former Lincoln Kid, who, without any Lincoln Kids of my own, now has the honor of being a Lincoln Uncle and Lincoln Godfather — and I take my game-teaching responsibility very seriously. 

Here are a few I’ve had the joy of sharing with godchildren, nieces, and nephews. 

Hide & Seek

The classic. Who doesn’t love the thrill of finding the most clever hiding spot they can fit into and thwarting the “It?” For anyone who grew up without Hide & Seek, the rules are simple — one person is decided to be “It” — the Seeker. The It closes their eyes, counts to an agreed-upon number of seconds, then shouts, “Ready or not, here I come!” before going about and discovering the Hiders. Rules vary between different versions of the game, but we always play it so that the first Hider discovered is the new It, and the last person discovered wins the round. If the Seeker gives up, or if it’s dinner time, the Seeker may call “Olly, olly, oxen free!” to end the round. Hide & Seek is a great intro game for a lot of younger kids, as you can have a buddy to help count and look for the Hiders. It’s also fun to see how hard some Seekers focus. When my oldest godson was old enough to be It, one of my favorite hiding spots would be to stand in plain sight next to one of his parents. He was so determined to find a secret hiding spot, that an obvious one was inconceivable! 

There’s also a version of Hide & Seek (better suited to outdoor play, with room to run) where players may choose a Home Base. Home Base is where “It” will count, and players can make themselves Safe by reaching Home Base — before being tagged themselves. 


Tag is clean and simple — the power of the “It” transfers with a tag. No counting or hiding necessary. The hectic (and sometimes too-easy) nature of Tag invites variation, and the variations are often times more fun than OG Tag. 

These variations include, but are not limited to:  Freeze Tag — Players freeze when tagged, and can be unfrozen by the tag of another player; play continues until all players are frozen.

Tunnel Tag — When tagged, players must stand with feet far apart to create a tunnel, and can be freed by another player crawling through. Play continues until all players have been tagged.

The Order Games

I’m grouping these together because they feel like they’re part of the same family. Simon Says starts with a Simon who issues orders (“Simon Says jump on one foot!”), but anyone who follows an order that is not prefaced with the phrase “Simon Says” is eliminated until the next round, which begins when there’s only one person left. 

This is similar to Ships & Sailors, where a caller, on one end of the room, shouts nautical terms to the other players. A “Ships!” command tells players to run toward the left side of the room, and “Sailors!” sends them to the right. “Hit the Deck” tells everyone to drop to the ground, and so on. There are DOZENS more, but essentially, the goal is to keep going until the caller has exhausted all but one winner.

I’ve run out of space, which is a good thing, because I could go on forever. If you’ve got a backyard game you really love playing, or if you have a variation of any of the games listed here, send it to, and we’ll share it around! Get out there and play!

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