Supplies:
none
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Setup: 

1. Designate a large playing area with two ends. One end where the children will begin, the other end is where they are running to.
2. Select someone to be the villain in the river. At an underwater themed party this person can be a "shark." At a pirate party it might be a "pirate," for a halloween party a "ghost, goblin, etc." Or perhaps even a dragon at a princess party.
3. All other remaining participants must line up on the "start" side of the playing field.

How to Play: 

1. Have the children line up shoulder to shoulder.
2. Place the villain about ten feet in front of that line - facing all the players.
3. On "go," the players must do their best to "Cross the River" (get past the villain) without being tagged by the evil "shark", "dragon", "gator", etc.
4. If tagged by the villain, that player must now stay in the river with the villain and help catch other river crossers.
5. Children that make it successfully across the river may elect to go back across the river, but they risk being tagged! Or they can remain safely where they are until the last of their group has crossed.
6. When there is only one person remaining that has not been tagged, he or she becomes the new evil villain.

Variations: 

"Octopus": this is played the exact same way as "Crossing the River," but instead players are trying to "Cross the Ocean" that harbors an evil octopus. When someone is tagged by the octopus, they become one of its arms. The tagged person links hands with the octopus and helps to tag other players crossing the ocean. Each time a person is tagged, they further attach themselves to the octopus. Once attached, they cannot let go. Eventually, you'll have most of the kids in the center (with linked hands) trying to tag the few remaining runners.

Activity Length: 
15 - 30 minutes
Age: 
Preschool
School-age
Tween
Teen
Competitiveness: 
Either/or (can be played either way)
Difficulty: 
Easy peasy (fun and simple)
Indoor/Outdoor: 
Outdoors
Mess Factor: 
Clean and tidy
Noise Level: 
Rowdy
Number of Players: 
5 to 10
10 to 20
20+
Prep Time: 
No prep time needed!
Space Needed: 
Large (gym, outdoor field, reception hall)
Team Division: 
Every man for himself (individual players)