Crocodile – an outdoors game of tag


It is with some reluctance that I post the details of this game – a game which still brings back a little pang of self-conscious pre-teen bad feelings circa 1982. I was the new kid at a new school and I attended our first casual clothes day (at a school that requires a uniform these are golden and rare days indeed!) wearing a singularly bright pink tracksuit with banana yellow panels. Even for an 11 year old in 1982 it was a fashion tragedy which was met with much mirth from my class mates. When we played this game at morning break these class mates managed to victimise me with every round. HOWEVER – I can see that this game can be lots of fun, so here’s how you play:

You will need:
An open space
Four markers (cones, beanbags etc)
A gaggle of kids who are familiar with their basic colours
optional: a bunch of coloured fabric flags or scarves

Sometimes called “Uncle Sam”, (thanks Emma!) Crocodile should be played outside in a largish play area. Two markers are placed to mark out a start line and then place the other two markets at least 20 feet away to mark out a finish line.

One player is chosen to be the Crocodile who then stands in the centre of the playing field. The other players stand along the start line and if using flags or scarves, these should be tucked into waste bands or pockets, leaving a tail hanging out.

The players along the start line then start chanting “Crocodile, crocodile, may I cross the river?” and the crocodile replies “Yes you may, yes you may, if you are wearing *insert colour*”.

All the players who have that colour somewhere on their clothing may pass across to the finish line (you may want to put in an “underwear doesn’t count”) without being tagged.

The rest of the players must then run across to the finish line and avoid being tagged by the Crocodile. If using flags or scarves the Crocodile must attempt to remove the flag or scarf from the player (obviously the player is not allowed to hold on to the flag).

The players who are caught then join the Crocodile in the middle of the field as Crocodile Helpers. Begin the game again, this time with the Crocodile Helpers also tagging players. This goes on until one player is left who then becomes the Crocodile for the next round.

11 Responses to “Crocodile – an outdoors game of tag”

  1. Nina

    Bright pink tracksuit with banana yellow panels – oh you poor thing! If it’s any consolation I trotted around in the 80’ties wearing mint green skipants and a hot pink t-shirt with a tiger’s head on the front.
    Love your illustrations btw.

  2. Rebecca

    Crocodile is a lot of fun.
    Kids can be mean jerks. I don’t think I ever wore the “right” outfit as a kid! And yet we both survived…

  3. nadine

    love this game! i’ve never played it, but i’ve played something similar. looking forward to trying this in the classroom.

  4. eskimokisses

    when we played this game we sang ” crocodile, crocodile, may we cross the water to see your lovely daughter? If not, why not, whats your favourite colour? Insert colour here….!

  5. Melissa

    Yes, I remember paying it and we sung the same words eskimokisses said! Lots of fun!

  6. Mara

    Played this in New Guinea as a child, along with knucklestones and elastics. We would say “Crocodile, Crocodile may we cross your golden river on the way to school today? If not, why not? What’s your favourite colour?”

    And the Crocodile would reply with a colour or something else specific (curly hair, girls only, kids from Moresby…) and the kids with the colour or other thing called could cross safely, but everyone else had to run and risk the crocodile.

    There were enough real crocodiles about for us to bring real fear release to the game. And as our school uniform was set we would beg our parents to buy multi-coloured underwear and hair clips. Not sure they knew the underwear would later be on public display.

  7. Tal

    I played a variation of this game when I was a kid.
    we would play it on a pair of large cement tunnels that were a part of the playground, the kid who was the crocodile would stand in the space inbetween(the river) ant the two wooden supports on the sides were the barley or safe zones(ten second rule).
    we would chant hopping back and forth:
    crocodile, crocodile,
    may we cross the river?
    If not, why not,
    what’s your favorite color?

    Then they would say the color and try and tag it(usually sock color due to uniform)

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