Tag Archives: freeze tag

Children’s Game: Spanking Machine Tag

Main Piece: 

Informant: “Here’s a neighborhood game that I just remembered we used to play. It was very popular in our neighborhood. And I don’t know where it was picked up. You know, I was one of five kids, so we played a lot of games together and so we played a lot of games together, and the neighborhood would play a lot of games together, and we played a lot of tag. So we’d play some pretty typical tags like freeze tag, or just tag, or… I can’t remember the other names.”

Collector: “Like zombie tag. Or the version of it, yeah.”

Informant: “Zombie tag, yeah. So, one that we played pretty frequently- maybe it was pretty common, I’ve never seen anyone else do it -it was spanking machine tag. So, when someone gets frozen by tag, if they can stand with their legs apart like a teepee or like an A-frame and someone else can crawl through their legs before the person who’s it catches them, the person gets free.”

Collector: “Oh, yeah. I’ve played that.”

Informant: “Okay, so maybe it’s—”

Collector: “The word spanking in the title threw me off.”

Informant: “Maybe… Oh, I think we would spank them as they went through, too.”


This is a game that, as above, my informant would play as a child in Virginia as one of a number of tag variants. From the tone of voice, it was clear that she enjoyed the game. She called it as a neighborhood game, rather than a school game or kid’s game. Playing this game, she said, was localized to a smaller group than children or Virginian children. She had the opinion that this was a weird thing her neighborhood specifically did.


Having played a version of this myself when I was a child in Utah, I can attest that this game is widely proliferated. The idea behind crawling through the legs rather than simply touching the frozen body is to provide a further challenge for everyone that’s not “it.” Games where there is an “it” figure are characterized by a balance of power. Power is temporarily granted to the “it” figure and it is the title that transfers from child to child, allowing them to try their hand at power. This modification allows more power for the “it” figure in freeze tag, where it’s normally very easy for the larger group to win and the “it” figure doesn’t change as frequently. This specific version is also a good example of children’s counter-authoritative tendency to introduce things like spanking that they’re not supposed to do into their games in order to push the game outside the boundary of approved play.

Call of Duty

Amari Broadnax was born in Fontana, CA in 2006.  He has lived in Rialto, CA all of his life.  He is a six year old first grader at Lena M. Preston Elementary School.   Amari practices Tae Kwon Do at the Tiger Lee Karate Schools in Rialto.  He is the eldest of two boys to his mother, Keesha Cuthbert, who is a full time student at the University of Southern California and Assistant Branch Manager at JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Me:                        Amari, what games do you play at recess?

Informant:          (looks at me nervously, fidgets with clothes) Why? Did Mrs. Dietz call you?

M:                          What?  Why would she call me?

I:                             … I don’t know …

M:                          Okay, Amari, I don’t know what is going on.  I just want to know what you play at recess.

I:                             Am I going to get in trouble?

M:                          What? No. Why would you get in trouble? Amari, I promise you won’t get in trouble.

I:                             (hesitates) Mom, we are not supposed to play it though.  It’s called Call of Duty. Like the video game. You know?

M:                          Yes, I know.  Continue …

I:                             Okay, so, Mom, the boys umm are the zombies and umm we like try to get the girls.  So the girls umm run away from us so that they don’t umm become like us …like the zombies.  … and then, we  like turn the girls into umm the zombies and then the last human wins! (smiles) Mom, what’s wrong?

M:                          I don’t get it.  So, if you touch the girl she becomes a zombie?   How are there and humans left to win?

I:                             Mom, when I umm touch the girl I turn into a human and she is a zombie.  Do you get it now?

M:                          I think so … It sounds like Freeze Tag.

I:                             What’s that?

M:                          Nothing. Nevermind.

I:                             Mom …

M:                          Amari?

I:                             I’m not in trouble, right.  Cause that’s what you said …

M:                          No, you are not in trouble.


This sounds like a variation of Freeze Tag, that I used to play as a kid.  Basically, you transfer the “freezing” from one person to another until there is one person that remains unfrozen.  The thing that I remember about this game is that the more people that were playing, the longer the game lasted.  So, with a playground full of elementary school kids, it seems the perfect game for recess because it would never end.