A fun tag game played by children for years, Steal the Bacon continues to be a playground favorite. A number of variations make the game suitable for every age and in many different environments. The object of the game is to steal the “bacon” and take it back to your side of the playing area without being tagged.

Preparing to Play Steal the Bacon

Divide the players into two even teams. Designate a playing area with boundaries on both sides. Line the teams up side-by-side facing each other on the boundary lines. Number the players, so that each team has shared numbers. Place the “bacon” (any object such as a ball, beanbag, etc.) in the center of the playing area, an equal distance from both teams. Explain how the game is played, demonstrating the game play for younger players. Additionally, cover the rules of the game with the players.

How to Play Steal the Bacon

How to Play Steal the Bacon

Play begins with all the players chanting, “Bacon, bacon! Who has the bacon?” The referee or leader calls out one number and the players from each team who share the called number race out to the center to retrieve the bacon. The player who gets the “bacon” must race back behind their team’s boundary line without being tagged by their opponent.

Example: The referee calls out the number “5.” Player five from each team runs to the center of the playing area and attempts to “steal the bacon.” The player with the “bacon” runs back to their goal without being tagged by the other number five player.

The referee can decide to call out more numbers to release other pairs of opponents if the original players have difficulty grabbing the bacon or to make the game more exciting.

Scoring the Game of Steal the Bacon

Each team scores a point when a team member manages to race back behind their line with the bacon before an opposing player can tag them. Play continues until one team has the number of points you have determined is required to win the game or when all the players’ numbers have been called.

Steal the Bacon for Pre-K

Before you begin the game, explain the rules and ask the players to repeat the rules of the game back to you. Since younger players may have a difficult time remembering their numbers, use a washable marker to write their numbers on their hands. Have children sit down on the boundary lines while they are waiting for their turn. Begin each team line with the smallest, or youngest, player first, and pair team members by size, height, or maturity.

Before playing, demonstrate how to stand up, run to the center, retrieve the “bacon” (a ball works well for the little ones), and run back to the line.

Steal the Bacon for Older Players

You can make the game more challenging for older players by using addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division to call out the numbers. For example, “Steal the bacon if your number equals 24 divided by 8.” The players with the number three will race to get the bacon.

You can also call out more than one number at a time and/or require players to pass the bacon once before they score.


  • If you have a very large group, you can create a square playing area with teams on each side.
  • If you want more players participating, the referee or leader can call more than one number at a time.
  • If you wish, players may tag any player on the opposing team.
  • Sometimes a player may only tag the player on the other team with whom they share a number.

Playing No-Tag Steal the Bacon

Sometimes you have a group that, because of age or personalities, needs to keep their hands to themselves. In this version of Steal the Bacon, the goal is to retrieve a cloth or handkerchief from the pocket of your opponent(s) as well as steal the bacon.

After the players line up, distribute a cloth or handkerchief to each player and instruct them to put the handkerchief in a back pocket. Of course, this presupposes each player has a pocket. The object of the game is to steal the “bacon” and run back to your goal line without having your hanky pulled out of your pocket.

All of the players are numbered from one to three. The referee calls out a number and everybody with the number called attempts to grab the “bacon” and run back to their team. Players attempt to grab each other’s hankies. The players that get back to their team with the bacon and with the hanky still in their pocket score a point for their team. Play until a team gets five or more points.

Variation: If a handkerchief is grabbed, the other team gets a point.

Steal the Bacon Rules

  • Only the players whose numbers have been called are permitted out on the field.
  • If someone fakes grabbing the bacon and only touches it, that player can be tagged.
  • Players may not touch each other until someone touches the bacon. Once a player touches the bacon however, the other player may tag them, even if they do not pick up the bacon and run with it.

Although Steal the Bacon is a very simple game, it needs some explaining before playing. Remember, the caller can call out more than one number at a time or even all the numbers. This works well if one set of numbers is taking too long to grab the bacon. Sometimes both players walk around the “bacon” waiting for the other person to grab it.

A fast paced, fun game, Steal the Bacon works for large groups and small, for every age group and in many venues – classrooms, camps, retreats – anywhere children gather. Try one of our variations to make the game more stimulating and enjoyable. Have fun!

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