Indoor recess can be tough for teachers. You’ve got a lot of kids with a lot of energy who you need to entertain!
Some great indoor recess activities include:
- Play indoor volleyball.
- Make a chatterbox.
- Have a jokes context.
- Play charades.
- Have a paper tower contest.
Here’s a full list of 61 more ideas for you to consider:
Best Indoor Recess Activities
1. Make a Chatterbox
As a class, make chatterboxes (you might also know them as the “origami paper game”, “paper fortune teller”, “cootie catcher” or “salt shaker”). Then, get the students to play with them!
2. Paper Plane Flying Contest
Use YouTube videos to introduce the students to some paper plane designs. Then, get the whole class to make and decorate their planes. Once you’re done, everyone lines up at one end of the classroom and tries to throw them to the other side! (Tip: tell students if they’re caught flying the plane before the contest, they’re excluded).
3. Twenty Questions
Come up with a name or topic. Students can ask you 20 questions to try to find out the answer.
4. Telephone (Chinese Whispers)
Whisper a sentence into a student’s ear. Have the students whisper ear-to-ear and see what the final answer is – it’ll definitely have changed!
5. Story Time
Simply read the students a story. Kids love to be read to.
6. Silent Reading
Have the students read their favorite book without speaking for 15 minutes.
7. Silent Ball
Students pass a ball around. If you drop it, take a knee. If you open your mouth, take a knee.
8. Pushup Contest
Compete against your students to see who can do the most pull ups or pushups.
Get out the paints from your storage cupboard and encourage students to engage in some free painting! You could also link this painting task to a book you’ve been reading as a class.
10. Art and Craft
Hand out some paper, scissors and glue – then see what the students create!
11. Songs and Sing Along
Sing along with your students and teach them your favorite campfire songs. An example might be “Kookaburra sits on the old GumTree” – an absolute classic! If you can play guitar, now’s your time to shine.
Play your students favorite songs or select a child-friendly playlist from YouTube.
13. Jokes Contest
Run a joke competition – get students to try out their favorite jokes! If your students don’t have any, get yourself a book of jokes and read some out to your students. Get them to vote on their favorite.
14. Magic Tricks
Teach your students some magic tricks! You don’t need to know them yet … just jump on YouTube and learn together!
Charades involves miming topics rather than speaking – and students have to guess what is being mimed.
16. Musical Chairs
You’re indoors and you have a lot of chairs – why not host a session of musical chairs!?
Get the whole class in the Yoga mindset with a YouTube video teaching them some basic Yoga moves. This also gets them moving about during the break.
Zumba is another fitness activity students can do indoors with a YouTube video. It can help them let off excess energy before recess ends.
19. Board Games
Bust out Guess Who, Snakes and Ladders, Clue, Jenga, and any other games you have. Play a contest to see which student gets first pick for board game.
20. Build Forts
You’ve got tons of tables. If there are any old sheets lying around, encourage your students to turn their desk into a fort! Prizes for best fort.
21. Watch a Movie
A movie is a great way to keep them all calm and collected while they eat their recess.
22. Invent a Class Slogan
A class slogan can bring the class together and get them excited about their collective sense of belonging. An education slogan needs to be motivational, entertaining, and inspiring.
23. Play Legos
Building blocks such as Lego, Duplo and other brands can be incredibly entertaining! They also encourage creativity when you let students engage in unstructured play using these tools.
24. Paper Tower Contest
Get your students into groups of 4. Give all the students a stack of 25 pieces of paper (or a newspaper) each. Without anything but the paper, get the students to build the tallest paper tower they can.
25. Computer Games
Get your students to play collaborative computer games if possible. These games will get students to focus on their social skills while also developing some digital literacy competencies.
26. Interactive White Board Games
If you have an interactive white board, get the class sitting in front of the IWB and participating in any number of games on the white board. Try this website for a wide selection of IWB games.
27. Choose your Own Adventure Book
Read a choose your own adventure book to your students! At the end of each short chapter, get the students to vote on what chapter to turn to next.
28. Hot/Cold Game
Send a student out of the classroom then hide something around the classroom. As the student attempts to find it, the rest of the class can call out “You’re getting Hotter” or “You’re getting Colder” depending on how close they get to the object.
29. Four Corners
The four corners game involves students choosing a corner (1, 2, 3, or 4) of the classroom to stand in. If their number is called out, they lose! Students then choose a new corner before a new random number is called out. Students have to try to avoid getting caught out and make it to the end.
30. Write a Story from Story Starter Prompt
Set the students a story starter prompt and get them all to write a 5 minute short story based on the prompt. I have a free download of 127 story starter prompts on my story starters blog post – check it out!
31. Play Doh Building Contest
Give each of your students a pile of Play Doh and 15 minutes to create a design. The class then votes on which design is the best.
Give all the students a bingo card (or get them to write one themselves – it’s a 5 x 5 board with a number in each square). Then, start calling out numbers – until a student can cross off a row or column of 5. That student calls out ‘Bingo!’
Your trivia contest could be related to things you are currently studying in class. Get students in groups and ask them to come up with a team name before playing.
Have your students create origami using paper from your classroom printer and YouTube videos that provide the origami instructions.
35. Card Towers
Get students into groups and hand out a pack of cards to each group. The students need to build the tallest card tower they can with their deck of cards.
36. Don’t say ‘Like’ Challenge
Give the students turns to stand out the front of the class and talk about a topic of choice (Such as: Summer, Flowers, School, Parents). They have to talk for 60 seconds without saying the word ‘like’.
37. Jigsaw Puzzle Contest
Get the students into small groups. Give each group a jigsaw puzzle. The groups need to race one another to complete their jigsaw puzzles.
The whole class tries to guess a word that you have in your head – letter by letter. Each time they guess a letter that isn’t in the word, contributes to the construction of a hangman. Guess the word before the man is hung!
39. Make Snowflakes
Have the students fold pieces of paper into fourths then cut patterns into the paper. When it’s unfolded, it looks like a snowflake!
40. Heads Down Thumbs Up
All the students lower their heads and puts their thumps up. Then a small number of students walk around and pushes down some thumbs. Each student whose thumb has been pushed down gets to guess who it was who touched their thumb. If you guess correctly, you get to become a thumb-pusher!
41. Simon Says
The teacher calls out commands like “Simon Says Touch your Head”. Occasionally, the teacher will make a command that doesn’t start with “Simon Says”. If you follow the command without “Simon Says” at the start, you’re out!
42. Captain’s Orders
The teacher (or another student) is the ‘Captain’. She calls out commands like: man overboard, climb the rigging, scrub the deck, captain’s coming (salute), and other commands. It tires the students out fast!
43. Beep Test
If you’re in a gym, do a beep running test with the students – that’ll get rid of all the excess energy!
44. Toss and Talk
Get a beach ball and write questions on each color. When a student catches the ball, they have to answer the question on their right thumb. It’s a great icebreaker for students who do not know each other well.
45. Fold over Drawings
Get each student to fold a piece of paper into three. The first student draws a head on the top part. They cover the first section then pass it to their right. The next student draws the torso (without seeing the head). The third student will draw the legs without seeing the rest. Then, they can unfold the drawing and see what they’ve made!
46. Indoor Volleyball
Clear the desks, get the students to split into two teams, and get them to play volleyball across a line in the middle of the room. Use a soft ball or balloon to prevent damage.
47. Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes
Play the heads, shoulders, knees and toes song on YouTube and get the students to dance along.
48. Heads and Tails Knockout Trivia
Run trivia questions that have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. For yes, you put your hands on your head. For no, put your hands on your bottom. Students who get the wrong answer are knocked out.
49. Create a Time Capsule
Get the students to write a letter to their future self. Then, the students all put the letter in a box and you can bury it somewhere around the schoolground with a sign reading: “Open me in 20 years”.
Meditation for kids is becoming a very popular activity for improving metacognition and relaxation. Find a kids’ meditation video on YouTube.
51. Create Origami Ninja Stars
This is an easy Origami strategy for children 8 years and up. They can end up with ninja stars or (to save some lost eyes), turn them into flowers by sticking the star to the end of a straw.
52. Invent Signatures
Give a quick lesson on some strategies for creating a signature. Then, get each student to practice and try out different signatures until they get one they like.
53. Draw Perfect Circles
They say the only people who can draw perfect circles are crazy people. Try out this theory with a perfect circle competition – find out who is craziest in your class!
54. Do Calligraphy Lessons
If your students have mastered handwriting, get them onto the next level: calligraphy! Again, YouTube is your best friend here for learning together. Then, get each student to write their own name in calligraphy.
55. Haiku Poems
Get each student to create a Japanese Haiku poem based on a theme of your choice. Students can read them out to the class once they are done.
56. Deep Clean!
Now is the perfect time to clean out pencil cases, tote boxes and storage spots. Kids’ storage places are always full of junk!
57. YouTube Drawing Lessons
Find some lessons on how to draw pokemon, faces, or any other object you can think of. I’ll often do a lesson on how to draw an airplane based on YouTube videos.
58. Invent new Emojis
Show the students some sample Emojis on the internet. Have a brainstorm together about what they think would be a great emoji emotion to create (angry, thinking, clever, laughing). Then, get the students to each invent their own emoji.
59. Knockout Staring Contests
Get each student to stare into their partner’s eyes. The winner moves to the next round. The loose cheers on until there’s a final winner!
60. Write a Letter to your Parents
Get all your students to write a letter to their parents thanking them for something lovely they did recently. Brainstorm together some things parents do for us before getting the students to write the letter.
61. Write a Letter to Santa
Lasly, of course – write a letter to Santa! Consider putting them into envelopes so students can post them off to the North Pole.
These indoor recess activities are just a start – I’m sure you creative teachers can think of so many more for those rainy days! I’d love to hear comments below about additional ideas you might want to share.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.