How to Play an Old-Fashioned Game of Flashlight Tag

Nighttime Play Adds Suspense

grandson playing flashlight tag
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A combination of tag and hide-and-seek, Flashlight Tag has many variations. Playing at night makes it a livelier game, with players frequently changing their hiding places during the course of the game. School age children will enjoy Flashlight Tag. It may be a little too physical or scary for younger kids. 

Get Ready to Play Flashlight Tag

Flashlights are the only equipment needed. You'll also need a large area that's not too hazardous to negotiate in the dark.

Before you begin, survey the area for tripping hazards. If it's too dark, turn on a porch light or two, or play at dusk when there is still some visibility. 

How to Play 

The easiest way to play Flashlight Tag is by rotating "it." One player is designated "it" and given a flashlight. "It" counts to 50 with eyes closed while the other players hide. When "it" finds someone, he or she shines the flashlight on the other player. That player then becomes "it," and the first player is free to go hide. This provides a fast-paced, non-stop game and also has the advantage of allowing the game to be stopped at any time. 


The most common alternative to the rotating "it" requires that "it" find all the players before the next round of play. This is done by putting the players in "jail" -- a pre-designated area. The first player to be found still becomes the next "it." The disadvantage of this version is that the players in "jail" have nothing to do and may be tempted to slip away and rejoin the game, which is sure to cause a commotion.

Another way to play might be called Flashlight Kick the Can. "It" shines the flashlight on another player and then must run to the can, kick it, and call out the player's name. If the player who is spotted can make it to the can first, he or she can go free and continue to hide. For a better understanding of how to play this variation, read the rules for traditional Kick the Can.

Flashlight Tag can also be played as a team game, something like Capture the Flag. The players are divided into two teams. You'll need a flashlight for each member of the team. An area is designated as the jail. The first team closes their eyes and counts to 50 while the other team hides. Then the team goes looking for the hiders. Those who are tagged with the flashlight beam are taken to jail. Once players are in jail, they can be rescued by other members of their team. At this point, the first team will need to designate a player as jailer. The job of the jailer is to guard the prisoners and shine a beam on any team member who tries to rescue them. 

No matter which version you play, players on the hunt usually leave their flashlights off until someone is spotted. They then flick them on quickly and tag the player before turning them off again to hide their location. In another variation, the flashlight must remain on at all times, so that the hiders can see "it" approaching and may change their hiding places.  

Where and When to Play

Flashlight tag is a natural for camping (or gramping) trips with the grandchildren, or for backyard campouts. Just be sure you remembered to buy extra batteries!

 Actually, we like to buy crank flashlights for the grandchildren. It saves money and also gives them another way to work off their energy. 

If the grandkids just can't wait until dark, you can play the same game in the daylight with silly string. Unfortunately, a can of silly string doesn't last long. You can also use Nerf guns, but remember that eye protection is a must for playing with some Nerf toys.

See more ways to have old-fashioned fun or explore more classic outdoor games.