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How to Play Capture the Flag


Updated June 03, 2014

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Capture the flag is a favorite backyard game that offers players a good mix of fitness and fun. Play outside with two to four teams of any size.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 15-30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Divide players into two to four teams. Gather flags: scarves, bandannas, old T-shirts, socks, or even beanbags will all work. You will need one for each team, and they should be different colors.
  2. Divide playing area into equal-sized territories, one for each team. You can use chalk, cones, tape, or landmarks such as trees or sidewalks to mark boundaries. Place one flag into each territory. It can be mostly hidden, but some part of it must be visible. Once it's placed, the flag can't be moved by its home team.
  3. When the game begins, players try to cross into opposing teams' territories to grab their flags.
  4. When a player is in an opposing team's territory, he can be captured by that team's players. If they tag him, he must run to the sideline and perform a task—say, five jumping jacks or three push-ups, before returning to his own territory. (In some versions, captured players are sent to "jail." But that means less physical activity, so we recommend the "punishment" strategy instead.)
  5. Anytime a player crosses back to her own team's territory, she is safe and can't be captured.
  6. The game ends when one team has successfully grabbed the flag(s) from the other team or teams and returned to their own territory.


  1. Decide beforehand how you'll handle captured players, and make sure everyone knows the plan.
  2. Make a rule that teams can't guard their flags too closely. One way to do this is to disallow players to be within 10 feet of their own flag unless an opposing team's player is present.
  3. Clear the area of any hazards (lawn tools, broken glass) before playing.

What You Need

  • Large playing area
  • Flags (bandannas, old T-shirts, beanbags)
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