Kick the Can, a Game of Fun and Honesty

Kick the Can has been played by just about all of us at one time or another. The game teaches about playing fair as well as compassion for others.

Down through the years, the game usually was played with a plain clean tin can. We always found that Coffee cans worked the best because they were larger than the average can. The game is best played if you have five or more kids at a time. However, it is possible to play with at least three.

The game starts out with one person being “it”. They would hide their eyes and count to 25. During this time, the rest of the kids would try to find a good place to hide. One could hide in bushes, behind a tree or steps, in a garage, besides a car, or wherever they could be concealed the best.

The object of the game is to kick the can before “it” steps on the can and describes where you are at. Once you are caught, you honestly give yourself up and sit in a particular area. This area could be steps going into a house or a part of the sidewalk. You then stay there until all are caught or someone kicks the can. Once the can is kicked, you run off and hide again. “It” must retrieve the can and place it in it’s selected spot before they can again start calling people out. The last person caught becomes the new “it.”

Compassion comes into play when a person who has been “it” for a long time is allowed to catch everyone. Honesty is displayed, when kids that are caught, give themselves up. There are no referees or umpires. The game is governed by the players themselves. A player that cheats is frowned on by the other players. Praise for each other over their style of play is encouraged by the other kids.

The game can be played at any time of the day. However, it works better at night or in the twilight hours as it starts to get dark. Players are not permitted to leave the area until the can has been kicked away from it’s area. Anyone that got caught cheating and leaving too soon was admonished and made “it.”

Like many other games, there can be different versions played. This is mainly for adjustment to the location. For example, if there are not a lot of places to hide, “it” might have a saying before he can step on the can and call out a player. This gives the player time to close in for his chance to kick the can. If there is a handicapped child, the distance on how far you are allowed to kick it can vary. Sometimes players are allowed only to bunt the can lightly. This gives a handicapped child a better chance.

This part of the game is teaching sportsmanship. Players are learning not to take advantage of handicapped players. We even had a player that had a speech impairment. With him, we allowed him to step on the can and yell the word “Caught.” He would then point at an individual instead of saying his name.

Kick the can was a game of fun but, it also taught us how to officiate ourselves fairly and to respect the other children that we played with. Some of our parents thought that the game was dangerous. They thought this because, we liked to play at night and the idea of kicked objects didn’t sit right with them. However, they had very little problems with our behavior because we refereed ourselves.

The game that we played as a child had a lot of carry over values to adulthood. Many of those values today we count on to make a difference in our society and way of life.


Frederick Parker