Kick the Can (Game)

My informant is Grant, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Grant was born and raised in Los Angeles, however his father is from Iran and his mother is from Japan. Both of these cultures influence his life in different ways. This piece of folklore is a tradition performed on a holiday.

Grant: “So uh as a kid I would used to play ‘Kick the Can’ in my neighborhood. Did you play that?”

No I never did how do you play?

Grant: “You would get a can or like a carton and we’d put it in the middle of the street and then you have like, only one person defending the can and everyone else would disperse and hide from different angles. So usually we would put it in the middle of a cul-de-sac so it would be easier to defend and everyone would spread out and go to different angles and you would like coordinate with people and run at the middle and try and actually kick the can while the defender tries to tag you”

So would the guy defending the can be allowed to be right next to it the whole time or did he have to move around?

Grant: “Oh you can’t really puppy-guard. Like probably can’t be within 10 feet of the can until someone comes running”

How do you win?

Grant: “You kick the can you get a point but if you get tagged you have to be in the middle and defend the can now”

Was this a big game in your childhood?

Grant: “Yeah, I would say so. I used to play it all the time with my neighbors”

Did you play this game at school?

Grant: “Yeah, we used to play it sometimes at recess”

Do you know who taught you the game?

Grant: “I don’t know, I think one kid must have come out and explained it and said let’s play this game and it just took off from there”

When did you start playing this game?

Grant: “I was like seven or eight”

When was the last time you played?

Grant: “Probably like 10, we went through a phase of it where we would play a lot”


I think Grant gave me a really typical example of a childhood game. Like most childhood games, kick the can requires very little specific gear to play the game, on the contrary, merely an old can or empty carton will suffice. Grant isn’t sure where he first learned the game but assumes one kid just offered the game, explaining the rules, then proceeding to get everyone to play. Thus the transfer of folklore and now more people know the game and as they play with other children they in turn teach the game, transferring folklore. Grant played this game with his friends at school and his friends from his neighborhood. It may very well have been him being the bridge bringing the game from the schoolyard to the backyard or vice versa. It is just interesting how explaining a fun game to children is a way of communicating folklore.


For alternate rules and explanation see here:


“The Rules of Kick the Can /.” Project Play. Project Play Books, 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.