As a native-born Texan, my Daddy was geographically and culturally predisposed to be a storyteller.

Since everything is supposed to be bigger and better in Texas, it was sometimes hard to separate the fact from the fiction in his tales. Like the beginning of this short story about a popular game of the time he played with his brothers, sisters, and friends.

My Daddy’s Tale

Here are the facts. My Dad was a child of The Great Depression. The economic times were made even harder by the fact that he was one of 17 children. Only 11 who survived past age 5. Kick the Can was a game that most youngsters then played.

Now here’s how my Dad used those facts to start one of his tales. He would say, “When I was a boy, we all played kick the can, and we were so poor we couldn’t even afford the can.”

Now, I’m sure my Dad was exaggerating, but Kick the Can is a great fun game from the past. You can introduce it to your grandchildren and their friends, if you know how to play the game.

Five Reasons to Teach Your Grandkids to Play Kick the Can

  • It is one of the least expensive outdoor games you can play. All you need is a can or, even better today, an empty plastic coffee container. Then add a few pebbles to place in it to make a sound when it is kicked.
  • If you are worried about your grandkids spending too much time inside, it’s a way to get them outdoors for some exercise.
  • If you are physically able, it’s a fun way for you to share exercise. If not, you can always participate as an instructor/referee/monitor.
  • It’s a way to connect your grandkids to their ancestors and games of the past.
  • Since it is related to the games Tag, Hide and Seek, and Capture the Flag. After playing Kick the Can a few times, you can have your grandkids talk about the similarities and differences in the games.

How to Play Kick the Can

  • Place the can in the center of a yard or other relatively large area. Choose another area of the yard to be jail. Designated 1 player as “it.”
  • The player who is “it” covers his or her eyes and counts to a designated number. The other kids hide while the player is counting.
  • “It” then goes in search of the kids. When he or she spots one, “it” runs to the can and calls out that person’s name.
  • It “it” reaches the can before the other player, that player must go to jail. However, if the named player reaches the can before “it,” he or she is free and can hide again.
  • A player who hasn’t been spotted can “kick the can” at anytime, freeing all the players in jail, who can then hide again.
  • The game continues until all the players are in jail.

The Cultural Significance of Outdoor Games

Obviously, as time goes on and outdoor, unstructured play continues to dwindle. Games like Kick the Can become less familiar to youngsters. As play scholar Rodney Carlisle notes “At one point in time, teenagers played Kick the Can with younger children, and the game and its variations were passed on from child to child”.

Playing games like Kick the Can is a great way of connecting children with their past. It allows them to discover the freedom of outdoor games and offers a way to build a closer relationship with their grandparents.

What outdoor game was your favorite as a youngster? Why did you like it so much? If you were to teach it to your grandchildren today, what could they also learn about you and past times?

Let's Have a Conversation!