The very idea of indoor recess can make teachers feel like tearing their hair out, but inclement weather doesn’t have to strike fear into educators’ hearts! Research has shown time and again that kids need plenty of time to move their bodies, especially during the school day—and when it’s too cold, hot, wet, snowy or icy for kids to play outside, indoor recess games become a necessity.
Fortunately, there are plenty of fun indoor recess games that children love, that aren’t screen-oriented or Internet-based, and we’ve got a kid-approved list of the very best ones. These are eight indoor recess games for children of all ages, from preschool on up through elementary and middle grades, and easily adapted all abilities. Let the games begin!
Best Indoor Recess Games
1. Dance Party
This one can be as simple and easy as turning on some tunes and letting students groove to the beat. Tailor the music to your particular students’ ages and interests; encourage them to hop, skip or shake their arms and their hips. Give students lengths of ribbon if you have them, to incorporate colorful beauty along with their movements. You can also do a version of musical chairs; if you don’t have actual chairs available, simply use removable dots of tape on the floor.
2. Would You Rather?
This game is great for indoor recess with students of any age and ability, as both questions and accompanying movements can be tailored to any group of kids.
Students line up in two lines on either side of a long strip of tape laid out on the floor; one side of the taped line will correlate with Option A, and the other side with Option B. The teacher will ask the group a series of “Would you rather…?” questions, making them as fun, gross or hilarious as is appropriate. Questions might include things like, “Would you rather eat ice cream with mustard on top or an apple with a worm in it?” or “Would you rather somersault or run backward all the way around the room?” As students choose which option they would rather do, they jump (or step, roll or otherwise move) from one side of the taped line to the other.
3. Tag (Any Version)
This oldie-but-goodie is a favorite among kids of all ages, and best of all, there are tons of different versions of the game to choose from! Check out our Top Ten Twists on Tag post for some great variations on this timeless classic game of chase-and-catch.
4. Paper Plate Balloon Badminton
This fun, active indoor recess game, perfect for kids of any age, creates the best kind of chaos. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple! Children use paper plates to bat at balloons. That’s it! You can set rules if you like, or divide students into pairs or teams—or just have a free-for-all that will keep everyone laughing and moving for as long as recess lasts. Also, there’s no reason the teacher should have to do everything (or have all the fun!), so be sure to have your students help you blow up the balloons before the games begin.
5. Yoga and Stretching
While not technically an indoor recess game, yoga—and stretching in general—can be a wonderful way to start and end recess with students of any age. Since yoga and stretching are also meditative activities, they can help students calm their minds and develop their focus before returning to the rigors of the classroom. Simple stretches or yoga moves can include child’s pose (kneeling and bending at the waist to rest the chest on the knees and the arms and forehead on the floor); downward dog (starting on hands and knees, and pressing upward on the hands and feet or toes into a whole-body, inverted-V shape).
6. Toss and Talk
Have students stand in a circle; the teacher calls out a category, such as Your Pet’s Name, Your Favorite Movie or Your Least Favorite Food, and tosses a bean bag, stuffed animal or other soft object to the first student. That student catches the item and holds it only long enough to call out their answer before tossing it to the next student to catch and give their answer.
7. Arts and Crafts
Moving the body and getting the heart pumping are undeniably important during the school day, but they aren’t the only ways for students to get a brain break. Sometimes, the best indoor recess games are arts-and-crafts-based, as these types of activities allow students to explore their imaginations and exercise their creativity as they get lost in colors, textures and lines. Give students large sheets of butcher paper and markers, pencils or even washable finger paints, and let them express themselves to their hearts’ content.
You can build in movement by making it a progressive group event: Have each student (or pairs of students) start at one sheet of paper and draw for thirty seconds to one minute before leaping up and moving on to the nearest paper, to add to that drawing. Ideally, by the end of recess, every sheet of paper will be a beautiful collaboration of multiple students’ work, and every student will have gotten some walking and plyometric jumps in along with their creativity session.
If you aren’t a theatre teacher, you might never have considered Charades as a good indoor recess game—but it can be a ton of group fun, whether your students are in preschool, middle or high school, or any grade level between. Have students act out book titles, characters, historical figures or scientific concepts they’ve been covering in class, or song or film titles that are currently popular among the kid crowd. Charades are fun as a whole-class activity or played in teams; you can even have play-offs, with winning groups going head to head in a final round.
Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.