Asia/ Early Childhood Education/ Japan/ Student Teaching/ Travel
July 25, 2013

Kick the Can – Japanese School Games

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To say the kids at my school are active is an understatement. In fact, these kids have SO much outdoor time during the school day. It’s a huge change for someone coming from an American school system where you have only one period of recess per day. I loved it! I feel like when the kids are this young especially, they need a lot of time outside to run around and get their energy out. Even though this time was for the kids, I ended up getting so much needed exercise as well, haha! They always ran after me begging me to play whatever game they were playing. I ran so much! One of their favorite games is called kick the can. 😀

Kick the Can - Kids Running

The game is pretty genius, once you think about. You just take materials that you have and make a game of it. To set up this game, a can is set up in the middle of a wide circle that is surrounded by various obstacles that the children can hide behind. In my school, they used old tables, game mats and stacked boxes. One child is in charge of guarding the can and must keep their foot on it to keep it safe.

When the teacher shouts go, all of the children go running and one lucky one can kick the can as hard as they can. The guard of the can has to retrieve it while the rest of the children run to their hiding places and start strategizing how to get to the can without being seen.

Kick the Can - Three Kids Hiding Behind Boxes

This game is harder than you think! If the guard of the can sees you before you make a run for it, you are out of the game. A lot of children get out because they peak around where they are hiding to see and get caught. The kids really have to use critical thinking skills to figure out how to get to the can without being found out!

The best place by far to hide was behind the stacked boxes. There are tiny holes that the kids can look through without getting caught. The children who were more mature figured this out quickly and always went to that spot. The tables and game mat were solid hiding places too, but you couldn’t see easily without risking being called out!

Kick the Can - Kids Hiding

Since I’m an adult, I always went for the boxes too. Except I’m a lot bigger than a kindergartener, so it was seriously a tight place to be in with several other kindergartners, haha. I really got some skills hiding behind that box and planning my route to kick the can. I feel like they had an unfair advantage because they were so tiny and slim! They could catapult their bodies so much faster than I could. In a game of speed with children, being an adult wasn’t giving me any favors. 😉

Kick the Can - Two Kids Hiding Behind Boxes

They gave me energy though with their excitement and enthusiasm. We watched eagerly for our chance to kick the can together. The guard of the can would walk around the circle taunting us, and when they went too far away, someone would strike. If they could kick the can before the guard touched it, nobody knew. When one of us did finally kick the can, it was amazing! All of our friends who were out were back in the game. It was actually very similar to baseball, where you’re out if a player is touching a base with the ball. Instead, you’re out if you don’t manage to kick the can before the guard touches the can. If the can gets kicked three times, the guard is out. Another similarity to baseball.

The kids always had fun, and I did too. I think I’ll be teaching this game to my students in the future, a little gem from Japan. Funnily enough, Wikipedia tells me that kick the can was a very popular game in the United States in the sixties. Now it’s not popular at all, and a tiny kindergarten in Japan, halfway around the world is teaching an American to play it! There is so much to learn from others. I’m thankful I get the chance to experience different things in different places.

Q: What kinds of games did you play as a child? Did you play something similar to kick the can?

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  • Kallen Shoukei Nava

    oww that game looks so funny a few years ago i played a game “las atrapadas” just run, run run and catch the other kids xD good times!

    • Life was so simple and fun when we were kids! It’s harder to be amused now!

  • Ileana

    Lovely pics!!! Looks like they are all having tons of fun 😀

    • They were. They always beat me, haha

  • c.brody

    I forgot all about Kick the Can. I use to play it when I was at school. I think I’ll introduce this game to the kids I tutor. When I was a child, I mostly played tag, hide and go seek and capture the flag.

    • That’s awesome! When I was a child, I was playing the same games. Kick the Can is definitely fun though! I’m sure I could have spent a lot of time playing it when I was younger!

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