Touch Football Rules for Kids
From the schoolyard to backyard, kids are throwing around the pigskin and chasing one another in their version of a sport that is several parts football and one part tag. Touch football has few rules, and virtually every game can be played differently than the next.
Pick a Hand, Any Hand
Before the opening kickoff, decide whether you are playing a game of one-hand or two-hand touch football. The ball carrier is down when he is touched with one or two hands above the waist and below the shoulders. This keeps players on their feet, and any contact with the ball carrier's head is avoided. In any case of contact to the head, the ball carrier should be ruled down but a penalty assessed to the defense.
Develop a system of counting that the defense must audibly recite after the snap before they rush the quarterback. “Apples,” “one-thousands” and “Mississippis” are popular counting devices. As long as the unit of counting contains more than one syllable and it is consistent for both teams, it’s fair game. One kid from the defense may rush the quarterback after the countdown is completed. Some kids might eliminate the rush all together from their games.
Moving the Chains
The rules for first downs are about as technical as touch football gets. Organized leagues designate a specific landmark for downs. Some games involve zones, where teams get a first down when they move to the next zone. You could also use some sort of marker, like a small cone, to mark the line of scrimmage and the line to cross for a first down. If the field and the players are very small, agree on a set amount of plays to reach the end zone. When the first team doesn't make it, or does, the other team gets its turn.
No Need for Kickers
Most touch football games are played on grounds without field goal posts. For that reason, extra points are essentially an extra down from a specified distance, like two-point conversions in traditional football. Teams are rewarded one point for scoring from a close distance, and two points for scoring from farther out. You could also forgo the point-after situation entirely and just keep score by keeping track of how many touchdowns each team has scored, or award seven points for every touchdown.
Brian Lancette is a sports, travel and comedy writer based in Chicago by way of Northwest Wisconsin. His most recent work includes running youth baseball camps with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Lancette graduated from the University of Wisconsin (Eau Claire) with a degree in history and global studies.