Making Indoor Recess Work | Playworks

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Making Indoor Recess Work

Five ideas for active learners on rainy days.
Wed, 02/01/2012

It’s cold and rainy. You bundle your daughter up--warm socks, layers, rain boots, a waterproof jacket and even pullover rain pants--and send her off to school. But when she comes home from school that day, she’s not only not wet, but cranky. Why? “We didn’t get to play at recess today.” What did you do instead? “We colored worksheets and talked at our tables.” Oh no! Your rambunctious little girl just spent seven hours without any running, jumping or dancing?! This won’t work.

Time to roll up your sleeves and send off some active play ideas to the teacher and other room parents for the next time recess is called inside.

Here are five ideas:

1) Can’t run? Try dancing! Kids love moving their bodies to music and don’t need a lot of space to do so. Have every student push in their chairs and dance behind their desks. Want to make it a game? Try one of our favorites: Dance Freeze. Note: If you students’ classroom doesn’t already have speakers and a music player, you may want to invest in an inexpensive set.

2) Push aside some desks and get a game of Four Corners going! This game requires minimal space, on the outside of a room. Identify four different corners for students to walk to and stand. As leader, cover your eyes and count backwards from 10. Everyone else must pick one of the four corners and stand there. When you reach zero, point to one corner (eyes still closed). All students standing in that corner must sit down in the middle of the room. Continue playing until there is just one student or after a few rounds, pick a new person for the middle.

3) It’s not easy for kids to stay quiet all day, but make silence a game and they’re ready. Silent Ball is a favorite among students. Students pass one or more soft medium size ball(s) around the room. Everyone stands up at their desk. They must remain silent while they wait for the ball to be passed to them. If a student peeps or drops the ball (or throws poorly), they sit down. After a short round, have everyone stand up again, use their voices and get out their wiggles then play again!

4) Up, Down, Stop, Go is an active game of opposites. Tell everyone ‘up’, they must kneel down. With the command of ‘down’, students reach up on their toes. Say ‘stop’ and all players run in place. Command them to ‘go’ so students freeze with their arms straight out to their sides. This game adds the challenge of listening and the benefit of physical activity. It will get kids moving and laughing!

5) Even bringing in some board games or puzzles can help. By balancing active play with simple social (probably also academic) play can make recess more manageable for everyone.

What are your tips for indoor active play?


Find more indoor recess ideas here!

Did you know that Playworks offers school staff and youth workers workshops on how to run indoor recess? Bring a Playworks Trainer to your school or afterschool program and learn how to implement play activities throughout the day, rain or shine.