Kickball: One of the Best Outdoor Games to Play With Kids

Old-Fashioned Activity is Fun For All Ages

teach the grandchildren to play kickball
Kickball is a fun game for grandchildren of all ages. Photo @ altrendo | Getty Images

Kickball has been the game of choice for neighborhood play for many years. Baseball may be the American pastime, but play it in the backyard and you risk broken windows and jammed fingers. Kickball is a safer and easier alternative. Kickball is most appropriate for school age children, although younger children can play with some help. It is also played by adults, some of whom engage in league play.

 It's a great choice for family reunions, grandma camp or almost any time that you have a large group together. Kids and adults can play together, although some adults may have to turn down their game a notch. 

Getting Ready to Play

Almost any type of medium-sized ball can be used for kickball. Choose one that is around 8 to 10" in diameter. A soccer ball or volleyball can be used, but one of the softer playground balls is more appropriate for smaller children. 

A large yard or park area is perfect for kickball. The ball will roll better for the kicker on a hard surface, but grass is more kid-friendly. If played on a hard surface, you can draw in the bases using chalk. If playing on grass, almost anything can be used for bases. Old throw pillows or pieces of shingle will serve well.

An "official" kickball team requires nine players, but you can play with as few as four players for each side.

How to Play

  • Kickball uses the basic rules of softball and baseball: four bases to run, three chances to kick the ball and three outs to an inning.  The pitcher rolls the ball to the kicker. Bouncing the ball, other than the little bounces that you get when the ball rolls over grass, is not allowed. If the ball rolls over home plate and is not kicked, that is a strike. If the ball is kicked but goes foul, that is a strike.
  • The fielder can catch the ball and tag the runner, or step on the base, or throw the ball at the runner to make the out. The ball should not be thrown at the runner's head. If the ball is thrown at the runner and misses, the runner may advance only one additional base. A kicked ball that is caught in the air is an out.
  • Most of the time in kickball, players are not assigned positions. Instead the players in the field space themselves out according to the number of players. They will, of course, move in for the smaller players and out for the stronger players.
  • Other rules can be agreed upon before play begins. Since you won't have a standard "batting order," you may want to kick in order of ages, or in alphabetical order. You may have to have special rules for balls that go over fences, into the street or into a ditch. Agreeing upon special rules is part of the fun!

Variations

  • Typically games last six innings rather than the standard nine innings of baseball, or you can play for a specified period of time.
  • In some versions of the game, there is no pitcher. Instead the ball is placed in the home area and kicked. 

Fun Facts

Kickball was originally called Kick Baseball. It was invented around 1917 by a Cincinnati supervisor of playgrounds, Nicholas C Seuss. The game has been used as an introduction to baseball or softball.

Kickball is mostly considered a kids' game, but adults do play it. Usually it is considered a social game rather than a competitive sport.

The U.S. Army promoted kickball as a leisure sport for soldiers in the 1940s. In their version of the game, whoever fielded the ball threw it to first base. The ball was then thrown to the other three bases in order. In order to score, the runner had to beat the ball to home. 

See old-fashioned ball games or more classic outdoor games