In general the game goes something like this: One person (possibly a team of people) is (are) designated as "it" and a can (paint can or metal pail (bucket)) or similar object is placed in the open (usually the middle of a backyard,a green, a cove or cul de sac, parking lot or very lightly traveled street).
The other players run off and hide while the "it" covers his or her eyes and counts to a previously decided number.
"It" then tries to find and tag each of the players. Any player who is tagged (caught and touched) is sent to the holding pen (jail) which is simply a designated area for all the captured players to congregate, generally in plain sight of the can. Any player who has not been caught can "kick the can" (thus the name of the game). If they can kick the can without being caught then they set all of the captured players free.
If "it" catches all of the players he or she wins that round and generally a new "it" is designated for the next round.
Thus this game is one of skill, strategy and stealth as well as fleetness.
In another variation, when "it" sees or finds a person hiding, "it" must run back to the can and place one foot on it while saying the found person is in the can (i.e. "Tim is in the can") before the found person is able to reach the can and kick it. Thus, once a person is found or seen by "it", the game becomes a race to the can between the found person and "it". In order for someone to be caught and put in "jail", "it" must have beat the found person to the can and pronounced that person "in the can". "It" also could say "1-2-3 on.." whoever they found, while touching the can.
As another variation, more than one can (or milk cartons -- easier on bare feet when kicking them over) is used. The cartons are scattered at the beginning of the game when everyone runs to hide. "It" must gather them and stack them so they don't fall over. Then, when "it" spots someone hiding, "it" must run back and touch the tower of cartons without knocking them down. If they fall, the "caught" hider can run away and hide again. If they remain standing, the hider goes to jail. While "it" is searching for others, someone not yet caught can sneak in and kick over the cartons, freeing those in jail.