Kick the Can is a very old children’s game, and no one seems to know for certain exactly where or when it originated.
What we do know is that Kick the Can was very popular during the Great Depression in the 1930s. One thing that helped make the game popular was that it could be played without requiring expensive equipment. All you need is something small that can be safely kicked.
In the 1930s, kids would find a can that had been thrown in the garbage. Or, maybe they begged their mothers to let them have the can that held the beans the family ate for dinner last night. Some kids filled the empty can with rocks so that it would make a noise when it was kicked.
The other thing that made Kick the Can popular was that it did not require a specific type of field to play on. Any large area that had a lot of good hiding places would work just fine. Kick the Can could be played in someone’s backyard, in a nearby field, or at a park.
Kick the Can was a pickup game. That means a group of kids could start the game, and other children, who happened to pass by the place where the game was being played could join in. The game requires at least three kids, but can be played with any number higher than three.
The game starts with a can that is placed in a highly visible spot. It is typically placed next to an area that is called “jail”. The kid who is “it” closes his or her eyes and counts to a designated number. While that happens, all of the other children rush to find a spot to hide.
After the counting ends, “it” starts looking for the hidden children. When “it” sees one, he or she calls out that child’s name and their hiding place. Both run to be the first to kick the can. If “it” kicks the can first, the other kid has to wait in “jail”. If the hidden child kicks the can first, “it” has to close his or her eyes and count again while the other kid finds a new hiding place.
The game allows a hidden player, who has not been called out by “it”, to sneak out of their hiding place and kick the can. If successful, all of the players who were in “jail” are released. The child who is “it” has to close his or her eyes and count again while everyone hides. The game ends when “it” has successfully jailed all the players – or when time is up.
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