How to Play the "Steal the Bacon" Children's Game

Steal the Bacon: Classic Game Rules

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Materials Needed to Play Steal the Bacon

"Steal the Bacon" is a classic children's game that can be played outside or inside a gym. This game may be played with a minimum of 7 participants, though a larger group is better. The items needed for the game are:

  1. A group of children, with a minimum number of 7.
  2. A small object to act as the "bacon."

Any small object may be used as the bacon - a small ball or dry erase board eraser are usually easy to find in a classroom setting.

This classic game works well for elementary through middle school aged children. Academic variations may be used to reinforce concepts in the classroom, and a sports-oriented approach may be used to help improve soccer dribbling skills. Fun variations with water balloons and flashlights are perfect for summer camp!

Rule Variations

There are different rules for scoring that may be applied to Steal the Bacon:

  • In some versions of this game, the player scores one point if he or she returns to his team line with the bacon and is not tagged. If the player holding the bacon is tagged, neither team is awarded a point.
  • Another variation in scoring is similar to the rule above: if a player returns to his/her side untagged, their team gets one point. If the player is tagged however, the point is awarded to the other team.

Rules of the Game

  1. Select a "caller." The caller will stand at the head of two rows of children, and will call out numbers.
  2. Have the other children line up into two even rows, facing each other. The rows should be at least 20 feet apart.
  3. Place the "bacon" (ball, bean bag, or eraser) in the center of the two rows.
  4. Have the children in the rows call off their number: the first child in each row will be #1, the second child will be #2, etc.
  5. The caller will announce a number. If the caller calls out "number three," then both children assigned the number three will run to pick up the bacon.
  6. The first child to pick up the bacon and make it back to his or her side wins two points for their team. If the child is tagged by the other player before making it back to his or her own team, then the child only gets one point.
  7. The first team to reach 10 points (or other preset number) is considered the winner.

Steal the Bacon Game

When the "caller" announces a number, the corresponding member from each team runs to retrieve the bacon - the first child to return to his own team scores a point.
When the "caller" announces a number, the corresponding member from each team runs to retrieve the bacon - the first child to return to his own team scores a point. | Source

Math Based and Academic Variations

Steal the Bacon is an excellent game to combine physical activity and academic skills. One variation of this game involves having the children solve math problems to determine which number is being called. This game may be adjusted by grade level to increase difficulty.

In this version of the game, the teacher is the caller and will call out a math problem. If the teacher calls out "four plus two!" then the two children in position number six will run for the bacon. Since the children have to solve the problem before running for the bacon, the advantage goes to the child who knows his or her math facts. Speed and knowledge are required for this game.

Likewise, the game may be used to teach phonics skills. The players may be labeled with letters instead of numbers in this version of the game. For children in Kindergarten, the instructions could be to listen to a word and identify the starting sound. If the teacher says, "grapes," then the children who are in the "G" position would run for the bacon.

Academic Variations for Steal the Bacon

Skill Set
Caller Prompt Examples
Player Reaction Examples
Math
"12 divided by 2!"
Player #6 from each row would run for the bacon.
Phonics
"The sound at the end of the word: man!"
Player with the letter "N" would run from each row.
Syllables
"The number of syllables in the word: elephant!"
Player #3 from each row would run for the bacon.
Colors
"Green!"
The player in the "green" position would run for the bacon.

True or False Variation

To play "True or False" with Steal the Bacon, two objects are needed to act as the bacon. One object should be red, and the other should be blue. The blue object will represent a "true" statement, and the red object will represent a "false" statement.

The caller will shout out a number, and then a question which has a true or false answer. The players from each side will have to decide whether the statement is true or false, then run for the appropriate object.

For example, the caller will say, "Number four: the capital of Florida is Orlando!"

The two children in the number four position will have to consider whether this is true or false. The children will run for the red "bacon" (representing a false statement): the first player to return to their line wins a point. If a child chooses the wrong answer, no point is awarded.

A bonus point may be given if the child can name the proper fact - in this case, the fact that Tallahassee is the capital of Florida.

Contact Sport Variation

Steal the Bacon may be played as a contact sport. In this version of the game, the caller announces more than one number. The players from each team scramble to reach the bacon first. Players on the opposite team are allowed to tackle the player with the bacon and attempt to wrestle it from his or her hands. The team that manages to get the bacon back to their team line wins a point. This version of the game is more likely to result in injury.

Steal the Bacon, with Water Balloons

Steal the Bacon becomes more fun when water balloons are used to tag the player in possession of the bacon!
Steal the Bacon becomes more fun when water balloons are used to tag the player in possession of the bacon! | Source

Steal the Bacon: Water Tag Variation

Fun Variations of Steal the Bacon

Consider trying the following fun variations of the game when playing this game during summer camp or at a party:

  • Water balloon variation: when a number is called, the designated player from each team runs to fetch the bacon. When the bacon has been taken, members of the opposing team throw water balloons at the player. If the player is hit with a water balloon before returning to his or her team, he loses the point.
  • Squirt gun version: similar to the water balloon version above, players from the opposing team attempt to squirt the player with the bacon before he is able to return to his team. If the player is squirted, he forfeits the point.
  • Flashlight tag version: play Steal the Bacon at night, using a glow-in-the-dark ball as the "bacon." Equip one member from each team with a flashlight (this player does not have a number and will not run for the bacon). The flashlight players will be placed at the end of each line. When a number is called, both players race for the bacon. Once the bacon is in the possession of one team, the opposing team's flashlight player will try to catch the player with the bacon in the flashlight's beam. If caught, the player with the bacon is frozen and forfeits the point. Play continues until one team reaches 10 points or all the team members of one team are frozen.

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Comments 24 comments

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

It's so important for children to learn classic games like Steal the Bacon! Thanks for the detailed overview. This is a great resource for parents and teachers.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Rose! My kids adore this game, and we often use it to reinforce academic concepts. We have also used the game for soccer practice - they try to get to the ball first and dribble it back to their team for a point.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

This is a very interesting game. I have never heard about this game before. Thanks for sharing. I would love to try this game with my small nieces.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

It is a common children's game in the United States - it works best with large groups of children and is often played in our elementary schools. My children love the game, Thelma! I hope your nieces enjoy it, too!


Abdul Sattar Amin 3 years ago

this hub reminds me past.... Great hub.


starbright profile image

starbright 3 years ago from Scandinavia

Great game. Something new for some of us on the other side of the water. Thanks for sharing.


NornsMercy profile image

NornsMercy 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

I forgot about this game!! Ah, the awkward nostalgia. Hopefully children will continue to play games like this. :)


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

I loved this game when I was a schoolgirl, Abdul Sattar Amin - when I see my boys playing the game, I feel a bit of nostalgia.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Starbright, it is fun to learn about games from other countries. We recently learned how to play Kubb - a Swedish game. My children enjoy that game a lot!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

NornsMercy, my children frequently play this game at school and as part of day camp activities. Hopefully these games will continue to be passed down through the generations!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I just came back to say congrats on getting HOTD! Well deserved. Have a fantastic weekend.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Rose! I was thrilled to see it today. I hope you have a great weekend, too!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Wonderful to see active games for kids highlighted here. Congrats on your Hub of the Day for a top-notch and needed hub! Pinning to my Children's Activities/... board if you have no objection--thanks!.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

I certainly have no objection, RTalloni! It is a fun game to play with a large group of children - my own boys have played different variations at birthday parties, as it is a fun way to pass an afternoon.


Wakerra profile image

Wakerra 3 years ago

I have never heard of this game before, but it does sound like loads of fun for parties! I will remember this for the future. Congrats on Hub of the Day!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 3 years ago from South Carolina

Congrats on earning HOTD! I never heard of this game before, but like the way you presented it and included variations.

Your photos were also excellent.

Voted up across the board except for funny.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Wakerra, give the game a try (the next time you have a large group of people). The water balloon version is very fun in the summertime!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Thank you, Happyboomernurse. I used to play this game as a child and my children play it frequently during gym class. It is easy to add an academic twist to Steal the Bacon!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Congrats on the HOTD! A well deserved award;-)


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Thank you, Thelma! I enjoy writing articles about children's games.


WTF World profile image

WTF World 3 years ago from Earth

This game promotes thievery amongst our adolescents.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Ah, yes, WTFWorld - Steal the Bacon: the "gateway" game to a life of crime! I can reassure you I played the game often as a child and was never tempted by the act of larceny.


rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved! This is a game that I have never heard of before. I thought your step by step instructions and variations are great. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, Rose - it is a fairly common game in the States, though I have met many people who have never played it. My boys play it all the time as part of their gym class, and I remember playing it as a child, too!

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