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Indoor Recess: 20+ FUN Ideas to Save Your Sanity

You may need to resort to indoor recess for many reasons. Rain, snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures can all put a big damper on going outdoors. I personally hate indoor recess; the noise, the moving around, the close quarters, and the inability of the kids to get their energy out. At my school, we only have a play deck for outside time, and once it is covered with snow, you are done outdoors for a while. So, I’m here to give you a list of 20+ activities to do inside so that you can save your sanity.  Some of these great ideas have come from my amazing Instagram followers.

Indoor recess got you down? Spice it up for your students by checking out these tips to make it fun for everyone! Fun games, activities and more to make indoor recess fun!

FUN Ideas for Indoor Recess

• GoNoodle

If you have a projector, GoNoodle is perfect for indoor recess.  If you haven’t signed up yet, you should go check it out at  It’s FREE and perfect for indoor recess because it’s easy for you to turn it on, and all students can participate.  Most kids, even 5th graders, enjoy it, but I’ve had some who didn’t want to participate.  I just had them find a spot to sit and hang out to work on an individual activity.

Lower grades would probably like any category.  There are so many fun things.  But my 5th graders were pickier, and some videos fell short for them, so I’ll tell you some of our favorites.

  • Kidz Bop: This category takes songs kids love, makes them appropriate for school, and kids sing them.  The students dance and copy the moves of the kids on screen.
  • Koo Koo Kanga Roo: I thought they wouldn’t like these, but they did!  Their favorites in this category are “Milkshake,” “Slow Motion,” and “Pop See Co 2.0”.
  • Indoor Recess: This category was designed for indoor recess, and the videos last 10-15 minutes!  Perfect for recess!  They even have a warm-up and cool-down.

• Whole-Class Games

Whole-class games are great for involving everyone in the same activity.  Many of these ideas have spanned the decades, as they were games I played in my school years.  They are still the favorites of students today.

  • Heads Up 7 Up: A classic…this game is easy enough.  Just pick seven students to stand in the front of the classroom.  Everyone else stays at their desk, puts their head down, and their thumb up.  No peeking!  They will try.  🙂 Then the seven students picked will go around, and each will push down the thumb of someone in the class.  Once they all decided, someone yells, “Heads Up 7 Up,” and the students picked have to stand.  They each try to guess who chose them.  If correct, they take the place of the picker.  If incorrect, they sit, and the picker stays.  At the end of the round, I always let the pickers say who they picked.  Then start another round!  Easy peasy.
  • 4 Corners: Another fun and easy game, 4 Corners has one student stand in the middle of the room with their eyes covered.  All the other students have to quietly move to one of the 4 corners of the room.  The person in the middle points to a corner without opening their eyes.  Whoever is in that corner is out.  Repeat until everyone is out of one person is left.  The winners get to be in the middle for the next round.
  • Silent Speed Ball or Silent Soccer:  You need a soft ball for this.  I use a stuffed soccer ball and keep it on my desk for emergencies.  Everyone stands.  You need a judge, either you or a trustworthy student.  They need to pass the ball around without talking.  If they talk, they are out.  They throw it crazy, and the other person can’t catch it; they are out.  If they miss it, they are out.  The judge makes the decision on bad throws.  Keep playing until one person is left.

• Utilize Other Spaces

Does your school have an LGI room or another open space in which students can get their energy out?  This would be perfect for indoor recess so students can still spread out and move around.  Is there a deserted hallway somewhere where you could spread out?  Maybe build paper airplanes and then have competitions?  Also, is your gym always occupied? Perhaps you’ll get lucky, and there’ll be an opening during your recess time.  Never hurts to check.

• YouTube

If you have access to YouTube and a projector, there are infinite possibilities of things to do.  There’s even TeacherTube if you’re concerned about content.

  • Just Dance Videos:  Kids love them, and they have songs kids know.  It also teaches them how to dance on the screen.  I used to have kids ask to stay after school so they could do these videos. I’ve collected some favorites on this website. P.S. This website hasn’t been updated in a LONG time, but the brain breaks there are great!  WARNING: One or two videos did have what some may believe to be inappropriate (sexy) dance moves.  Prescreen if to be sure they are appropriate.
  • Directed Drawing: Art for Kids Hub has EXCELLENT videos teaching kids how to draw anything from popcorn to dinosaurs to trolls.  The best part is the drawings come out looking amazing!  I love kid drawing, and Art for Kids Hub does a great job of helping kids feel confident in their drawing abilities by explaining step-by-step how to draw.  My kids at home even love it!

• Games and Toys

I have a collection of board games and toys I’ve picked up over the years at yard sales and such that I keep in the closet for indoor recess days.  It’s great for when you want to get something else done while the kids play.  I have one rule during this time, “Whatever you choose to do, you MUST get it quickly, sit, and STAY seated until it’s time to clean up.”  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Board Games: Connect 4, Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Checkers, Apples to Apples, Sequence, Jenga, Headbanz, and Trouble… to name a few.  My kids even like playing my task card games, which, for me, is a win-win.  They have an activity they enjoy, AND they are learning!  What could be better!?
  • Card Games: A regular deck of cards is excellent for Go Fish, War, Crazy 8’s, Old Maid, Memory, and Spoons.  A simple Google search on any of these will show you how to play.  Then there are card games like UNO, Phase 10, Skip-Bo, and my kids even LOVE playing my U-Know games (fun & learning in one).
  • Toys:  Legos and Lincoln Logs are perfect toys for the classroom.  Students can get creative while building, and it is a nice quiet activity.
  • Arts & Crafts: Some kids love having the time to color and draw.  I love that they can be creative.  It’s great to have an arts & crafts bin so students can use it during indoor recess to do just that.  I filled mine with special markers and pens, watercolors, paper, and anything else I could think of to make creating fun!
  • Review games: Students love to play some of the games we use during class time so much that they ask to play at recess. Yes, they want to play the games at recess. So, of course, I comply and allow them to get out of the games and play at recess. We keep them pretty accessible to students throughout the day, as games are used in various ways in the classroom. Read more about how I used them to spiral content throughout the year and some fun ways to spiral. Also, we used them as early finisher activities.
Early Finisher Ideas
5 Fun Ways to Spiral Concepts in Upper Elementary Image with game board and pieces in image

• Movies

Movies are great for indoor recess because then I, I mean the students, can have quiet time.  It’s nice because they only watch a short piece of the movie each day, and they keep wanting more.  It’s also perfect if you live in chilly areas in the winter months, where you may have many days in a row of indoor recess.

  • Any appropriate movie:  You can find many movies for kids on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  All require a subscription, but they are great for classroom use with a projector.
  • Netflix:  Brain Games is a great series on Netflix.  There are 35 episodes in this interactive series that use games, illusions, and experiments to show how our brains work.  Also, National Geographic has some great movies, and The Blue Planet is an excellent series, as well.  They even have 52 episodes of The Magic School Bus!
  • A movie based on a book:  If you have read a book this year that also has a movie, now would be the perfect time to start showing that movie.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy:  I don’t know about you, but my school has a huge collection of these DVDs, and my kids love them.
  • Discovery Education:  Free site…you need a code to sign up.  At least when I signed up, you did.  Great site for educational videos on whatever topic you may be learning about the rest of the day.
  • Liberty’s Kids – The Complete Series:  A series of videos about kids who travel back in time to historical events.  Kids love it!

• Classroom Choice

This is a favorite for my team as well as for our students.  You have to have multiple teachers who want to participate.  Each teacher takes one of the activities above.  We usually had one room that was watching a movie, one teacher that took the class to the blue room (our LGI room), another teacher that had a homework club, and another that did games and/or arts and crafts.  Then, the students could choose where they wanted to go.  Some activities had to have a cap so that there weren’t too many kids there and not enough in another room, but it worked really well.

• Technology

If you’re lucky enough to have computers, iPads, Chromebooks, or other technology, the students can use that.  There are so many possibilities for this that it may need another post.  But there are apps, games, and activities that the students can use to stay occupied.  They could use them with a partner or in groups.

• Balloons 

Kids love balloons!  Even my 12 year still has fun playing with balloons at my house.  So, why not come up with some games using balloons?  They have a few things going for them.  They are quiet.  Kids have fun with them.  They are quiet.  Did I mention they are quiet?

  • Volleyball:  Have one or more balloons ready to go.  Students stand at their desks or spread around the room.  Give the balloons out to students while spreading them around.  Yell “Serve!” and have them go to town.  The idea is not to let the balloons hit the floor.  You could even add a silent aspect to it, similar to silent soccer (above) if your students are too loud.
  • Tennis:  Split your students up into two teams and put them on either side of the class.  They use their hands as rackets and balloons as the ball.  Students hit the balloon back and forth while trying not to let it hit the floor.  You could use more than one balloon for this if you’d like more students engaged at the same time.

I hope you found some useful ideas to help you the next time you are stuck inside!  If you have any great ideas that you think should be included on my list, please let me know!  Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

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