Beginning a new preschool year with the things we “can” do!

Each new school year, I like to kick off the year with the focus of helping my students realize the many things they “can” do in preschool. I also like to throw a few real cans into each of my centers so we will stay focused on a can-do attitude all through out the week…

The things we "can" do in preschool

Of course, there are all kinds of things we can do in preschool but before I show you some of the things we did with cans, keep in mind that even without using cans it is possible to have a very fun “I Can” week at preschool.  The objective is to simply have lots of opportunities for play out for the children to explore so that they will get to know the classroom and be excited about coming to preschool. Also keep in mind that none of our cans have sharp edges that you see in these photos. We used a can opener that doesn’t leave sharp edges and filed down any that we were concerned about. I started collecting my cans during the summer so they will be ready for use during our first week of school…

The things we "can" do in preschool

In both our outdoor and indoor classrooms we have cans set out with things to do like explore pouring in the water table…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can play in our sand table…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can play with magnets…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can go on a nature hike…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can collect things from nature…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can watch bugs crawl around…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can go inside and glue…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can paint…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can play with play dough…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can play with blocks…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can find our own cubbies and put our things away…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can make new friends…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can sing and talk together…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can learn together…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can paint on the easel…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And we can write with chalk…

The things we "can" do in preschool

And the list goes on! As you can see, there are many things we Can do in preschool and I bet there are many things your students can do in your preschool too! If you have had your first week, I would love to hear all about it. Just leave a comment below!

The things we "can" do in preschool

Available on Amazon

By |2014-09-02T00:51:52+00:00September 2nd, 2014|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Michela Moroni September 2, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Fate delle bellissime esperienze, peccato che la lingua
    non mi aiuti, purtroppo non conosco l’inglese, insegno
    alla scuola dell’infanzia e ho uno studio di psicomotricità
    E anche io faccio belle esperienze! Su Facebook chiedetemi
    l’amicizia: il faro.
    Buon lavoro

  2. TJ Brunson September 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply


    I love this idea. Beginning a new school year is a challenge for the children and the teacher. By having the theme of “I Can” then reinforcing it with cans and activities that use cans, you really engage the children in the learning process. I live in a city so taking a nature walk is not an easy task but I love that you were able to include it. Thanks for your blog and sharing the information.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      How about taking a city walk then. I bet their are lots of things you CAN collect around your area or you could find things that need to be tossed in a trash CAN 🙂

  3. Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center September 3, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

    This is a really great way to jumpstart the schoolyear. Kids should receive encouragement especially during the first weeks of school so that they will realize that even if they are young and inexperienced, there are tasks that they can do effortlessly.

  4. Lori Bassett September 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Deborah! I wish my first week went as well as yours! I just opened up a preschool in my home in the basement and am so overwhelmed with everything! I am not a teacher by trade but a nurse and chose to stay at home when I had my last child 3 years ago who is one of my students. I am having a terrible time feeling organized with my day and I have a class of 6 first time preschoolers who are all 3 or turning 3 soon. I am following a curriculum but it doesn’t seem to work for my 3 hours. I am so overwhelmed and am in desperate need of some advice. I know you are extremely busy but if you have a free moment to offer any suggestions, I would so appreciate it! I feel like my classroom set up may not be appropriate too. I have circle time, a play area and a small library area all in one room which is probably 18x15ish and then I have a kitchen area in my basement adjacent to the main classroom where we are doing arts & crafts and snack time and where I have a chalkboard wall. I would love to hear from you if you have the time! Thank you!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Hi Lori,
      Tweak, tweak, tweak your environment until you find the magic spot for making things work for your students. AND remember that young threes hop everywhere for the first few weeks of school. Give them time to get to know you, your space, your routine, where things belong, how things should be used, where things should be used, when things should be used as best as you can and then begin tweaking. My threes always spend the first week just hopping like bunnies from one spot to another so it is part of why I stopped overplanning complex ideas and focus on just learning about our environment for a full week. For a three hour day – that can seem long without a well thought through routine so be sure to really build a full routine (morning greeting, morning centers, morning snack, reading/story time, music time, outdoor play, science, math, sensory, easel painting, hiking, and so on). It will get better – you will get better but don’t set your expectations that things should run perfectly. Instead, learn about your students, build a relationship, tweak your environment and routine, build on things they enjoy, introduce interesting material, and smile and go with the flow at times too. Hang in there!

      PS. My circletime area is also my blocks and car area. All areas of your room need to be set up for play but your circle area can share the block area. And with only having 6 children – they will most likely love you doing most things with them as a large group for now. So for example – tell a story about a fish then everyone go together to the table and make a fish, when each child finishes, then they go off to play in centers until time for clean up. In most small group classrooms – my experience is the small group would rather be with you all the same time working together than on their own – especially if the process is designed to be very interesting and you are there making it sound super cool! I sure hope this helps.

  5. Shelly Matijevich October 4, 2014 at 12:02 am - Reply

    Love your ideas!! Would love to use some of this information in a training. What would I need to do anything in particular or just as a reference, since the information is already public?? Please let me know. Thank you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      Any thing you share from my blog would need to be credited back to my blog. Photos may not be used in training without permission. Although this information is shared publicly, it is not considered free for use – it is copyrighted material and should be treated as such.

  6. Naomi Mier August 16, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    I just finished coaching an intensive, full day, five week program with rising K’s (Big Lift Inspiring Summer – BLIS). I had 18 facilitators and 135 scholars. Part of my training (which was new to me) was to use the word “YET” a lot. If/when a child said they couldn’t do something, our response would be “you can’t do it YET”. It was very positive and empowering.

    • Deborah Stewart August 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      LOVE that Naomi!

  7. Kathy August 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm - Reply


    You are so creative and inspiring! We start up our new school year next week. I’m going to use your idea????

  8. Darla Miller August 17, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    I love your I can days at the start of school. Now I will be thinking of fun ways to put this idea to use in my classroom. Do you have books that go with this theme as well. I would still love to have a list of your top 50 books you use for four year olds:).

  9. Bernadette Griffin August 20, 2017 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Let’s start a list!
    The Little Engine That Could (I think I can!)

  10. Lyn August 20, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

    I would love a list of your top 50 books you use with your four year olds as well. I have bought a few that have been displayed in some of your workshops that I am pretty happy with.

  11. Victoria August 21, 2017 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Just reading this the night before my class open house in the morning. I’m loving this idea and plan to make “I CAN” the theme of our school year. There are so many possibilities! Thanks so much for this idea and for all of your inspiration!

Leave A Comment

This site uses 'cookies' to give you the best, most relevant experience. Using the website means you're OK with this. Ok