How to Play Kick the Can

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my links, at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.

Sharing is caring!

Kick the Can Game

Kick the can is an old childhood game that has been around since the early 1930s. The games is especially liked by kids because it combines capture the flag, hide and seek, and tag all into a single game. 

What makes this game more interesting and unique is the ability to accommodate almost everyone. You can take part in kick the can no matter your age without feeling silly.

To play, you need to have as few as 3 players and as many as 20 or more participants. Before you kick-start the game, ensure the field and the players are properly organized. The organization process will involve creating boundaries and building a “jail” for all the players that are likely to get caught.

Having completed this, the gameplay should be pretty straightforward. You can apply a host of kick the can variations to eliminate monotony and keep the game fresh for all the players.

kick the can rules

Organizing the Field and the Players

1.   Ensure the Players Are Gathered in One Place

As mentioned above, a minimum of three players is required. However, there is no set maximum. If you have enough hiding spots and a big space, you can play with as many as twenty players.

What you need to do is:

  • Gather around a group of kids from your school or neighborhood. You can also gather kids after taking part in school club games to join you.
  • Extend an invitation to kids within your age-group who may be playing alone to come and join you.

2.   Find a Bottle or Soda Can

Cans and bottles are the main choices for anyone who would like to take part in this game. However, kick the can rules are very flexible; you don’t have to stick to cans and bottles. You can opt to use any other object that can be safely kicked without causing injuries. Viable alternatives include a plastic bucket, balls, plastic cones, small boxes, or small trash cans among others.

  • When you choose an item to use for the game, make sure to give it a few practice kicks. Your item of choice should not go too near or too far. It should travel a medium distance within your playing area.
  • It’s recommended that you consider placing some items in your chosen object; for instance, tiny rocks. This will help to adjust the distance that the object can travel when kicked.

3.   Establish the Boundaries for Your Game

An ideal play area needs to be large and filled with as many hiding places as possible. Parks and playgrounds are considered perfect for this game. Cul-de-sac streets will do just fine if you are looking for a good hiding spot. Ensure all the players agree on the game’s boundaries before you start playing.

  • You can use natural features, such as paths, large rocks, and tree-lines to define the boundaries.
  • In case there are no ideal boundaries around the playing area, you can use cones, branches, hats, rocks or any other usable items.

4.   Choose an Area to Host the Jail

Whenever a player is caught, they will be automatically sent to the jail. As is the case with the play area, the jail should also have a clear boundary. Some of the places you can use to host jails include porches, decks, benches, and patios.

  • If your playing area does not have a clearly outlined jail area, make one by organizing cones, stones, and branches to create the required boundaries.
  • Ensure the jail is big. It should hold as many players as possible.

5.   Agree on a Count Time and Then Select a Seeker

If you’re not sure of how to go about the selection process, use rock-paper-scissors. You can also choose a method that everyone else is familiar with. Regardless of the number of available players, kick the can only requires a single seeker.

When the selection process is complete, ensure that you agree on how long your seeker will count before they can start searching for the players who are hiding.

  • Always opt for longer times. A longer count time provides players with enough time to hide. This, in turn, ensures the game is more challenging.
  • On the other hand, resorting to shorter count times can mean that the game will become more fast-paced. If the players favor games that have a faster pace, then go with shorter count times.

6.   Set up Your Playing Can

Set up the can or any other item that you will be using in a central position. The location in question has to be open, which will make it hard for anyone to sneak up on it.

  • The best option is to place your object closer to the jail. The idea here is to free any person who is already in jail. Whenever the can is kicked, the person who has kicked it will run towards the jail in an attempt to free others. He/she will run towards the jail and everyone in the jail will get the chance to run away.

Playing the Game

1.   Hide When the Seeker Starts the Counting Process

The seeker will normally start looking closer to where the item or can has been placed. Traditionally, the seeker should close their eyes as they continue counting to the agreed-upon number. As the count continues, the other players should start looking for ideal hiding spots.

  • The seeker will immediately start looking for the others when the count time is up.

2.   Go to Jail When the Seeker Catches You

The only way a seeker can catch a player is by calling out their hiding spot and their name. The two will then need to race back to the location of the item/can. If the player is beaten to the can by the seeker, then they get jailed.

If a hider arrives first, then the first thing to do is to kick the item.

  • Kick the can variations are plentiful. A common variation is where the seeker runs and tags another player after they have called out their location and name. If you are a hider, you should still strive to kick the can.

3.   Reset the Game Every Time the Item or Can Is Kicked

When a hider kicks the can, he or she will automatically run to look for a new hiding location. The seeker will do everything they can to try and get the can back. They will then place it back into its original position. Jailed players get freed when the can is kicked by a hider.

  • Given that kicking the can automatically frees the jailed players, seekers need to strategically guard the can. The key is to ensure the seeker always has an eye on the item to prevent hiders from sneaking up on it.
  • Depending on the rules agreed upon with other players, there are instances when all a seeker needs to do is set up the item before they can start searching. In other cases, kick the can rules may require the seeker to start counting again before the game can proceed.

4.   Continue Playing Until There is Only One Hider Left

In kick the can, the last hider is always declared the game’s winner. To ensure that the seeker will not have to search for hiders for too long, it could be a good idea to establish the overall time that seekers can spend searching for hiders. You can set a fifteen or thirty-minute timer, or use your phone’s alarm.

  • There are versions of this game where the playtime continues until a seeker has jailed all the hiders. In this type of variation, the seeker is deemed the ultimate winner of that game.

Kick the Can Variations

1.   Include More Seekers in Your Game

Addition of more seekers can be quite fun when there are many players. Nonetheless, you may want to set up a rule stating that seekers cannot stand or wait by a jail in an attempt to babysit the item/can. The overall number of seekers to add will depend on your playing preferences.

  • You can use two seekers even when you have less than twenty players. Addition of more seekers helps balance the game. By using this approach, it means that seekers can choose between offense and defense (seeking and protecting the playing can).
  • It may be a good idea to introduce more cans after increasing the number of seekers. For instance, ensure that each seeker has their own can.

2.   Encourage the Seekers to Tag the Hiders

Having the seekers tag the hiders is an interesting way of introducing new thrills into the game. Rather than have the seekers beat the players to the location of the can, you can have them tag the hiders. When a player gets tagged, they should immediately head for the jail.

The time of day to play this game comes down to your personal preferences. Note that there are challenges with each. For children who want to play at night, it’s advisable to do it under the supervision of their parents/guardians.

Want to learn some more fun games? Check out our fun kicking games or learn how to play ghost in the graveyard.

Learn how to play kick the can.

Learn the rules and instructions of the fun game kick the can.

Sharing is caring!