Playworks for every kid

Recess in the rain... and snow... and...

Whether it’s snow, rain, poor air quality, or extreme cold, inclement weather can put a kink in school recess. Kids need physical activity every day. Students benefit from play outdoors, including the fresh air, sunlight, increased space to run and even the change of scenery. Time outside is healthy and helps students return to the classroom ready to learn again. Parents and educators can help children get their necessary daily physical activity regardless of the weather conditions.

First, learn your school’s policies. Some school districts set policies on recess in inclement weather. Others leave the decision up to each principal. It is important to not only know the policies, but the reasons behind them.

In preparing for those extreme weather days, remember the saying “no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Kids should be prepared for rainy, snowy, or especially cold days outside. That means layers, waterproof boots, overcoats and pants, hats and mittens. Any winter day can be fun with the right clothing. In fact, rainy days can be some of the most fun play days. Here are a few simple steps to make rainy days fun and manageable. And here are tips from one of our playgrounds on how to adjust recess play for snowy days.

There will still likely be days when students must stay indoors for recess. Keeping kids active inside can be a challenge, but it is absolutely possible. Begin by assessing the current indoor recess plan. What space is available? Gym or part of it? Classrooms? Cafeteria or part of it? Auditorium? Even an open hallway can have potential for use. What staff or volunteers are available? Does the schedule change for indoor recess? By working closely with school staff and thinking creatively, you can find more opportunities for students to be active.

Now the fun part! Use any of the below suggested indoor recess games to plan out potential recess plans for different age ranges. You’ll find the games categorized by space and include tips for playing in those spaces.


Games can be organized for the whole cafeteria simultaneously or by table/class/small group. With limited room, students can either stand next to their seats to participate or use the space between tables. If you have available staff, volunteers or student leaders, run games at multiple tables simultaneously. Always keep safety in mind when deciding how many students you can work with at once/what games to play in the space.


Many classrooms have limited space, but with teacher permission, desks can be moved to allow for more activity. If you are not able to move them, desks/chairs can be utilized in games. The great thing about classrooms are they have a lot of available resource. Consider blackboards, maps, etc. that could be used with the teacher’s permission. Again, if there are enough supervisors or student leaders, active games can be facilitated simultaneously in multiple classrooms. Remember that many of the cafeteria games can also be played in the classroom!


The unusual spaces can be used creatively to get kids active. Use aisles, stage (away from edge), and space at front/back of room. Games played in a line are great for this kind of space. Set up stations if possible to eliminate some of the chaos and make activities visible and available for students. Use staff and student leaders whenever available. Consider any of the games from above, such as Ro Sham Bo Relay, Dance Freeze or Fox and Rabbit. 


The hallway is a good compromise if there is no large indoor space. Suggest a trial period if your principal/teachers are skeptical. Limit the number of students coming out – start with one class each time, then allow more students to come out at a time once game locations/system is established. Set this up for success by explaining safety and noise rules and available games to students before they begin. If students want to play a different game, discuss it individually -- making a plan for space and safety first. Remember that many of the above games can be used too!


If you have a gym, take advantage of it! Even if for a limited time or with a large group. Be creative, setting a rotation for classes to use the gym for each indoor recess. This way each class gets an opportunity to play in the gym at some point. When it’s their turn, let students know in advance what games will be played and where. Share safety rules and signals (such as a bell or whistle) so students know when recess is over. Many of the same games that are played outdoors, can be brought into a gym. Here are just a few ideas: Four Square, Jump Ropes, Wall BallSwitchCircle DodgeballRollerball, Relay Races, Three Lines Basketball, and Band Aid Tag.

Need more help? We provide Indoor Recess workshops for school staff! Submit your request for a Training Assessment.

For more game ideas, see our games library.