Recess is an important part of the school day for elementary school students. But what do you do when the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can’t send students outside? Here are some indoor recess games for elementary students that will keep them entertained and active, and keep YOU sane during indoor recess time!
WHY DO KIDS NEED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DURING INDOOR RECESS?
Physical activity is essential for children’s physical and mental health. It helps them grow strong bones and muscles, control their weight and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, there are mental and emotional benefits as well. Exercise improves children’s moods and reduces stress and anxiety. It also helps to improve concentration and cognitive function. All of this also keeps negative behavior in check! This is why you need to find great physical activities even when you can’t go outside.
You can read more on why kids need recess here.
HOW DO YOU MAKE INDOOR RECESS FUN?
The key to making indoor recess fun is to find activities that are active and engaging. It’s also important to have a variety of activities available so that children can choose what they want to do. And, if possible, put students in small groups or involve the whole class in the indoor games.
WHAT INDOOR RECESS GAMES FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS CAN I PLAY WITH MY CLASS?
Here are some indoor recess activity ideas for elementary students:
Indoor Scavenger Hunt
This is a classic game that can be played indoors or outdoors. To play, hide objects around the room or school and give children a list of things to find. They can work in teams or individually to see who can find all the objects the quickest.
In Person or Teletherapy Scavenger Hunts
You’ll need a few lightweight objects to serve as nets and a balloon to play this game. Students can work in teams of two or three to keep the balloon off the ground and score points by volleying it over the net.
This is a fun activity that can be played with a few household items. Set up empty plastic soda bottles or laundry detergent bottles as pins and use a small ball to bowl them over.
Hula Hoop Race
This is a simple, but active game that can be played with any number of students. Set up a finish line and have students race each other while hula hooping.
Indoor obstacle course
This is a great way to get students moving and using their imaginations. You can set up an obstacle course using furniture, cones, or other objects. For added fun, time students as they complete the course and see who can finish it the quickest.
SMALL GROUP GAMES FOR INDOOR RECESS
Break your students into small groups for these indoor recess ideas. All of these can be done right in your classroom.
Stand in a circle and do exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, ski jumps, forward jumps, or running in place. Try yoga poses. GoNoodle is a super popular option.
Exercise Posters for Kids – Printed
Have the children sit on the desks or stand up in a circle. Using a softer ball, the children toss the ball around to their classmates. There are three rules. You can not speak, you can not throw the ball back to the person who just tossed it to you, and you have to catch the ball. If you talk, toss it back to the person, or drop the ball you are out of the game. The last person still in the game is the winner!
If the player throws the ball and it is uncatchable that player is also out of the game. Kids love this game and so do teachers because of the quiet rule!
Be a Robot
Pair up. One person is the robot, and the other is the button pusher. The button pusher, pushes the robot and gives them an action, like “bend your knees!” After a few turns, switch. You can download a free printable here.
Someone hides an object while the others close their eyes. The hider gives the others clues (“You’re getting warmer/colder”) until someone finds the object. Then, that person becomes the hider.
The first student starts by saying “I spy with my little eye something that is…” and describes an object in the room. The others take turns guessing what it is. You can use worksheets for this activity too! You could try this one – I Spy Toys or I Spy Dinosaurs.
One person acts out a scene or animal while the others guess what it is. You could use this free printable for Camping Charades.
WHOLE CLASS INDOOR RECESS GAMES FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
If you want to get everyone involved and work on your students’ social skills with fun games, consider these entire class games for indoor recess.
Indoor Balloon Freeze Dance
Play music and have students dance around the room hitting balloons up in the air. When the music stops, they must freeze in place. Whoever moves, is out. Keep playing until there is one person left.
Place a chair in the middle of the room for each student, minus one. Play music and have students walk around the chairs. When the music stops, they must sit down in a chair. Whoever doesn’t have a chair is out.
The Floor Is Lava
Students must try to get from one side of the room to the other without touching the floor. They can use furniture, jump on blankets, or whatever they can think of. If they touch the floor, they are out.
Duck Duck Goose
This classic game needs no explanation. Have fun!
This is another classic game that can be played with any object. Pass an object around in a circle and when the music stops, whoever is holding the object is out. If you want to add in physical activity, you can pass around different exercise or yoga cards. When the music stops, the person who is holding the exercise card has to complete it.
A student whispers a message to the person next to them. The message gets passed around until it reaches the last person in line.
One person is Simon and gives instructions to the others, like “Simon says touch your nose.” If Simon only says “touch your nose” and doesn’t start the instruction with “Simon says,” then whoever does it is out. Read 100 Simon Says Game Ideas here.
Red Light, Green Light
A student is chosen to be the stoplight and stands at the front of the room. The stoplight calls out “Green light!” and the others start walking towards him/her. When the stoplight calls out “Red light!” everyone must stop. If anyone moves, they’re out.
Mother May I?
Someone starts out as the mother (or father) and stands at the other end of the room. The others line up behind her. The mother calls out a statement like “Mother may I take 5 giant steps forward?” If the person who the mother is facing says “Yes, Mother,” then they can take those steps. If they say anything else, they can’t move.
EASY BRAIN BREAKS FOR INDOOR RECESS GAMES FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
Sometimes kids just need a brain break from their day. Here are some great brain break ideas for indoor recess:
Indoor Recess Yoga
There are tons of yoga videos on YouTube specifically for kids. Do a quick search and find one that looks fun! Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great one. If you want a break from technology, you can use yoga cards instead.
10 Minute Yoga for Kids in the Classroom
This can be as simple as having students sit in a comfortable position, close their eyes, and focus on their breath. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, and then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this process a few times. Check out these Mindfulness ideas.
Crank up the music and let students dance however they want! Encourage them to try different movements and let loose! Sometimes unstructured play is great.
One student starts with the hula hoop around their waist. The goal is to keep the hula hoop up while passing it over, under, and around their body.
Roll Some Brain Breaks
Roll the dice and use this Roll Some Brain Breaks to figure out what quick brain break students will do!
Roll Some Fun Brain Breaks UPDATED
PENCIL AND PAPER INDOOR RECESS GAMES FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
Want to get them engaged with simple pencil and paper games? Here are a few to try:
Tic Tac Toe
This one needs no explanation. Get some friends together, and a whiteboard or just a piece of paper and have fun!
Another classic game that can be played with any number of people. Choose a theme like movies or snacks to make it easier. Try this Doggy Hangman game!
This game is played by 2 or more people. Each person comes up with 3 possible places to live, 3 possible jobs, 3 possible spouses, etc. Then, take turns rolling a die and crossing off one of the possibilities each time. The goal is to get rid of all of the possibilities so that only 1 is left in each category. Here are two free printables to get started.
Fun Handwriting Worksheets – 20+ MASH Games
Even something as simple as scrap paper, scissors, glue, crayons/markers, and coloring books can be entertaining for kids during an indoor recess day. Students can let their creativity shine!
Would You Rather?
One player comes up with 2 hypothetical scenarios that they write down, and the rest of the students have to choose which one they would rather do. For example, “Would you rather eat a bug or drink a glass of sour milk?”
Superhero Would You Rather Brain Break
FUN BOARD GAMES FOR INDOOR RECESS GAMES FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
Board games can be a great way to entertain your students so that they are working together (and giving you a break!) Here are some good ones for indoor recess:
Two to four players are allowed in this game. The goal is to be the first player to reach the end of the board. Players draw cards to determine which space they move to each turn. The game is short and sweet, perfect for young kids with a short attention span! Add in exercise with this variation.
This game is played by 2 people. The goal is to be the first player to connect four of their pieces in a row, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Players take turns placing their pieces on the board, and the first player to get four in a row wins!
Checkers is played by 2 people. The goal is to capture all of the opponent’s pieces or block them so that they can’t make any more moves. Players take turns moving their pieces, and the first player to capture all of the opponent’s pieces wins!
There are tons of indoor recess games for elementary students that they can enjoy! These games are perfect for when the weather is bad or when students need a break from the hustle and bustle of the school day. Indoor recess games can be active or they can be calm, depending on what students are in the mood for. So find some of your favorite indoor recess games, and look forward to that next rainy day.
DOWNLOAD A FREE PACKET OF INDOOR RECESS GAMES HERE
You can download a FREE packet of indoor recess games for elementary students below. Check out more QUICK AND EASY games for the classroom here.