Rocking indoor recess in the gym… or classroom… or cafeteria…

  1. Updates

Recess happens every day: rain or shine, snow or sleet, hot or cold weather. But what happens when weather conditions keep you inside? Can you still have an engaging, fun, and physically active recess?

Yes, of course! Depending on where you live, most winter months may be spent inside for recess due to snow on the ground or below freezing temperatures, but recess is still an incredibly important time of day for students to take a break from academics, get their heart rates up, and practice core social-emotional skills learned through play.

Get started with these tips:

  1. Learn your school’s policies. Every school district or school administration has different policies regarding indoor vs. outdoor recess conditions, spaces available for play, and the general “run of show.” Be sure to check with your school staff so that you’re starting out on the same page.
  2. Have a back up plan. No matter how foolproof you think your plan is, challenges can arise. Sometimes the auditorium you planned to use for recess is being used for an assembly, or the classroom next to you is taking a test so you need to have a quiet indoor recess. Make sure you have a back-up plan and that it’s communicated to the other members of the recess team!
  3. Keep it consistent. Just because you’re inside for recess doesn’t mean that the same recess procedures can’t stay intact. If you normally announce game stations before recess starts, do that! If students line up at cones at the end of recess, set up cones inside so they know where to line up, close out recess, and transition to the next activity in their day. 
  4. Stay safe. Indoor recess commonly means limited space, so making sure that all students and staff are staying safe should be a top priority. If you’re playing a fast-paced game in a classroom full of chairs and other obstacles, consider using speed-walking or hopping motions rather than running in a game to keep everyone safe.
  5. Have fun! Recess is such an important time of the day, full of creativity, free play, and games, and all of those things can still take place inside. Encourage students to try something new, and jump into a game yourself to experience the power of play!

Space limitations are always a concern when we talk about indoor recess. Here are a few key places where indoor recess takes place and some awesome games to play in those spaces.

Auditorium: While this is an unusual space, we can get creative with using aisles, space in the front and back of the room, and of course, the stage! 

  • Up, Down, Stop, Go: With space to walk and move around, this game is sure to be a hit with younger grades. Try doing an “opposite” round where players have to do the opposite of the verbal command- it’s sure to get some laughs.
  • Big Cheese: Utilize the stage for this game! Have the “big cheese” stand on the stage while all other players are below, and be sure to switch out who leads the game every couple rounds.
  • I See, I See: Lights, camera, action! This is the perfect game to play in the auditorium, as it requires acting, creativity, and lots of laughter.
  • Running Through the Forest: Take your students on a magical adventure around the aisles of the auditorium with a few rounds of Running Through the Forest. This game is best for younger grades who love to be silly and get their energy out.
  • Night at the Museum: This game is a student favorite across all ages. Make it more physically active by having students do jumping jacks, squats, or push-ups if they get caught by the museum night guard!

Cafeteria: Games in the cafeteria can be organized as one large game, broken down by class, or broken down by table. With lots of obstacles in a cafeteria, these games are high energy but don’t require lots of running or fast movement (some can even be played sitting down), making them safe to play in a cafeteria.

  • Dance Freeze: This game is a classic for students of all ages. Grab a speaker, pick a song, and turn it up loud!
  • Rock Paper Scissors Relay: A perfect activity for teams to compete against each other. Once you set up a relay course, this game is self-sustaining and will get students excited, moving, and practicing playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  • Bridge Ball: If you have a soft ball and space between tables, this is such a fun circle game to get kids laughing and having fun. To make it more physically active and inclusive, consider having students do jumping jacks to get back in the game rather than being out.
  • Splat: This classic Playworks game can be played sitting down or standing up, and is a great game for other recess staff to facilitate.
  • Ball Toss Race: This game requires hand-eye coordination and is best for older grades who are looking for a challenge. To make it even more difficult, add more balls such as a basketball that you have to bounce or a soccer ball that you have to pass with your feet.

Classroom: Having indoor recess in a classroom is one of the most common locations, and it offers tons of opportunities for play! Be sure to keep your noise level in mind, especially if there are surrounding classrooms who are learning during your recess.

  • Huckle Buckle Beanstalk: This game is a hit across all grade levels. All you need is a small object to hide and a class who is ready to have some fun!
  • Four Corners: Considering that this is a silent game, this is a top pick for classrooms that need to be cognisant of noise level. And with no equipment necessary, this is a remarkably easy game to jump right into and for Junior Coaches to lead!
  • Silent Ball: As you can tell by the name of this game, it is also a completely silent game which makes it awesome to play in a classroom. To add a physical challenge, have everyone in the class complete 10 jumping jacks every time the ball is dropped or someone makes a noise.
  • Group Count: This game works best with older students, and is challenging to complete. Encourage students to use positive language and come up with a strategy to be successful!
  • Bob the Bunny: Be careful or this song will be stuck in your head forever. Bob the Bunny is a game perfect for younger students, and is played with all players sitting in a circle, making it perfect for smaller classrooms in which movement is challenging.

Gym: A gym offers tons of opportunities for rigorous physical activity during indoor recess, and most closely replicates what your outdoor space probably looks like. Be sure to utilize the big open space with lots of physically active games!

  • Clean Your Room: This is an awesome, high-energy game that younger students absolutely love. For an added challenge, do a couple rounds in which students can’t use their hands!
  • Four-Square: Take a classic outdoor recess game inside! Use some tape or pre-existing lines to create a four-square court in the gym, grab a playground ball, and start playing!
  • Sneak: This strategic and physically active team game is perfect for older students who want a challenge. Sneak is a slightly harder version of Capture the Flag, and can easily be played outside in a large field as well.
  • Hula hoops/jump ropes: Having this equipment available during indoor recess is a great idea for students who prefer solo activites, and you can get competitive with it by holding a jump rope or hula hoop contest.
  • Spud: With a large group of students who want a new twist on a dodgeball-type game, try out Spud! Remind students to only throw the ball waists and below to keep everyone safe.

Hallway: While having recess in a hallway sounds challenging, there are tons of awesome games that you can play in this space.

  • Land, Sea, Air: Turn this game into a competition through elimination, or make it more physically active by letting students do jumping jacks to get back in. The only equipment needed is a line on the floor, which can be found in most hallways already, or can be easily created with a piece of tape or jump rope.
  • Maze Game: The Maze Game is a strategic game perfect for older students in a small space. For added fun, pick a student to be the new maze creator and hop in the game yourself!
  • Switch: This game will best work in a wide hallway with a little more space to move around, and is a great way to bring a core outdoor recess game inside. To be safe in a smaller space, consider using a different mode of movement other than running, such as “fire feet” or hopping.
  • Relay Races: Allow students to get creative and set up relay races! Hallways are perfect places to do this as they are long and narrow, which gives two (or more!) teams the perfect set-up to compete against each other.
  • Snowball Alley: As a new twist on a dodgeball game, Snowball Alley will be a new way to get students engaged and excited during indoor recess!

There are so many games that are available for all different kinds of spaces during indoor recess. Try some of these out, and make sure that your students can experience the power of play no matter where recess takes place!

If you’re an educator in Rhode Island and want to learn more about how to make your indoor recess awesome, join us for Active Indoor Recess Week from February 7-11! Learn more and sign up here.

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