How to Play Kick the Can


Kids don't need expensive toys or games to have a lot of fun; give them just a can and some outdoor space and they can spend hours playing Kick the Can. This game combines a familiar childhood game, Hide and Seek, with a touch of exercise to keep them active. While they can make up their own rules, the game typically revolves around the can, or "home base," with one child taking on the role of "it" and trying to find other players and put them in "jail." Other players try to avoid capture and free their friends.

Setting up the Game

  • Set the boundaries of your game area and tell players that they cannot go outside of them. Players should have enough space to have a chance to outwit or outrun "it" but not so much space that "it" can’t compete -- a large backyard or park area with trees is perfect. Players hide during the game, so you need somewhere with enough hiding places. You don't need any equipment apart from the can; however, if you don't have a can, a plastic bottle, empty carton, or anything that can take being kicked around will do. Avoid glass or solid containers unless you set rules that players touch the container rather than kick it. Put the can on the ground somewhere in the middle of the play area and choose an area to be the "jail" for captured players.

Starting the Game

  • After choosing one player to be "it," there are two ways to start a game of Kick the Can. You can have 'it' cover his eyes and count to 50, or to 100 if you have a large game area, while the other players hide. Alternatively, one of the players kicks the can as hard as possible to give players a chance to scatter and hide while 'it' retrieves the can and puts it back in its place. When the count is done or the can is back, "it" then tries to catch players by finding their hiding places.

Kick the Can Rules

  • The player who is 'it' scouts round looking for other players. When she spots them, she shouts out their names and locations. Any player who is found then races 'it' back to the can. If 'it' kicks the can first, the player goes to "jail;" if the player gets there first, any players who are in jail go free and the game starts over. "It" wins if she puts all players in "jail" and a new "it" is chosen for the next game.

Kick the Can Variations

  • You can set a rule that "it" has to tag players rather than locate them. This can make a game fairer as "it" and the player have to run the same distance to the can. Players can also try to sneak to the can to kick it even if "it" hasn't found them. If they kick the can without being seen, they release jailed players. Although you can keep the same person as "it" when a player releases everyone from jail, this can get a bit boring if the player who is "it" constantly loses. If this is an issue, choose a new player for every game. If you're playing with a lot of kids in a large area, choose two "its" to even things up. If you don't have a can, choose a home base that players have to touch instead of kick, such as a tree or wall.


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