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Rules of Flag Football for Kids

author image Suzy Kerr
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.
Rules of Flag Football for Kids
Football on a field. Photo Credit David Lee/iStock/Getty Images

Flag football can be a safe alternative to tackle football for kids since it's not about knocking heads. The players wear flags on their hips, and play stops when a defender yanks a flag off of a ball carrier. However, there’s a lot more to the sport than running up and down the field pulling flags. It does have some rules, which may vary by league.

The Basics

A typical youth flag football game consists of five to 10 players. The only equipment necessary is a football and Velcro flag belts, but some leagues also require a mouth guard. Standard games last 40 minutes. Tied games go into overtime, and the first team to score wins.

Quick Hands Rule

Blocking rules may vary between leagues, but what counts as a legal stop is universal. The defender has to pull the flag off the ball carrier's belt, which is no easy trick since that player is on the move. Holding the runner up in any way to make a grab easier isn't legal. Players also can't leave their feet to snatch a flag. The play ends when the flag hits the ground, or the defender holds up the captured flag to a referee. Some leagues permit a pass rush as long as the players start 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

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Live Ball/Dead Ball

Once a ball gets snapped, it's live until it goes out of bounds, points are scored, or the ball carrier’s flag is pulled. Play is also whistled dead if the carrier’s arm or knee touches the ground, or someone with just one flag catches a ball.

About Downs

The number of downs may vary, but most leagues will have four like regular football. The first possession starts at the 5-yard line, and that team gets that set number of downs to cross midfield. If they do, they get another set of downs to score. If they fail, the other team gets the ball at its own 5. Some advanced leagues may drop that last rule and use punters instead.

Extra Extras

Flag football at any level follows the same rules of tackle football when it comes to offense. A quarterback takes a snap, can pass or hand off, and no forward passes are allowed beyond the line of scrimmage. Touchdowns are worth six points, but the big scoring difference is in extra points. A team can try a run from the 5 for one point, or from the 12 for two. Some leagues will put up two points for a successful extra point pass.

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