7 Active Games for Indoor Recess



If you haven’t heard by now, recess is really good for students. It gives them a chance to be active, and when they’re active, they do better in school and have fewer behavioral issues (and that’s really good for teachers!). But when it’s cold or rainy outdoors, students often spend recess indoors where they tend to read, play board games or use a computer instead of moving their bodies.

These safe and easy games, enthusiastically demonstrated by students from the Academy for Integrated Arts, can get them going again.

3 Quick Tips for Success

  • Think creatively about your spaces. Can you use they gym or even part of it? The cafeteria or auditorium? What about hallways?
  • Find people who can help. Indoor recess is a great time to recruit a parent volunteer.
  • Don’t forget to account for any schedule changes that may be in effect.


1. As If

Formation: Standing at desks
Players: Entire class
Supplies: None

Read these sentences to the class and have students do the actions for 20-30 seconds. Ask them to make up their own, too!
• Jog in place as if a big scary bear is chasing you.
• Walk forward as if you’re walking through chocolate pudding.
• Jump in place as if you are popcorn popping.
• Reach up as if grabbing balloons out of the air.
• March in place and play the drums as if you are in a marching band.
• Paint as if the paint brush is attached to your head.
• Swim as if you are in a giant pool of jell-o.
• Move your feet on the floor as if you are ice skating.
• Shake your body as if you are a wet puppy.


Bicycle Race

2. Bicycle Race

Formation: Rows
Players: Half the class
Supplies: Desks

Students stand in the aisle between two rows of desks. Alternate rows perform at a time. Students place one hand on their own desk and one on the desk next to them. On the signal “Go,” the students, supported by their hands, imitate a bicycling motion with their legs. The child who rides the longest without touching the floor is the winner for the row. Winners can compete later for bicycle riding champion of the room.


Do This Do That

3. Do This, Do That

Formation: Scattered
Players: Entire class
Supplies: None

One student is the leader and performs various movements while giving commands of “Do This” or
“Do That.” All players execute the movements accompanied by “Do This.” If the directions are “Do That,” no one is to move. Those who move at the wrong time are eliminated and sit down in place. The game continues until some of the students have been eliminated. The game is then re-formed with another leader, who is selected from the students who were not caught.


4. Balloon Volleyball

Formation: Standing, sitting on the floor, or seated at desks
Players: Entire class
Supplies: Two balloons and a rope

Students are positioned on both sides of a rope stretched just above their reach. They try to bat a balloon back and forth over the rope. The balloon can be batted as often as necessary. Two balloons used at once provide good action. A system of rotation should be set near the rope. Scoring is accomplished when one side fails to control a balloon and allows it to touch the floor or a wall.


Flag Chase Girl

5. Flag Chase

Formation: Hollow square – seated in chairs
Players: Entire class
Supplies: Four flags (or beanbags); chairs for all competitors; a marker centered 3 feet in front of each team

The class is divided into four even teams, facing center and seated on the sides of the square with a marker in front of each team. The player on the left end of his or her team has a flag. On signal, this player runs to the marker, goes around it from the right (counter clock-wise), and then runs to the seat on the right of the team. In the meantime, all players have moved one place to the left, vacating the right seat. The runner sits in the vacant chair, and the flag is passed down the line to the left.The player now in the leftmost seat becomes the new runner. The race ends when the flag has been returned to the leadoff runner in the original position in the left seat.

Flag Chase Boys

Flag Chase Game


Boy Plays Clean Your Room

6. Clean Your Room

Formation: Standing, sitting on the floor, or seated at desks
Players: Entire class
Supplies: Several packages of cotton or fluff balls and a timer

Divide the classroom in half, (you can use desks as the divider) and the students into 2 groups. Give each group half of the fluff balls. The objective of the game is to have the cleanest room! Once the teacher says ‘begin’, students throw their fluff balls to their opponents’ side. They can vary to throwing overhand, underhand, bowling, or throwing with the opposite hand, but no kicking or throwing fluff balls at people! After two minutes, the side with fewest fluff balls has the cleanest room. Divide the fluff balls and start again. Consider switching up the teams or having students walk on their knees or on all fours to make it more challenging.

Girl Playing Clean Your Room

Four corners game

7.  Four Corners

Formation: Have players split equally among the four corners (or as closely as possible.) Do a practice round with leader in the middle.
Players: Entire Class
Supplies: None

The player in the middle will close their eyes and count slowly and loudly from 10 to 0. While they are counting, all others may stay where they are or quietly move to a different corner. When the counter gets to 0, everyone must be at a corner (if not they must sit down). After counting, the player in the middle points to corner of his/her choice and can only open their eyes after having done so.

Anyone standing in that corner must sit down. If no one is standing at the chosen corner, all players sitting may stand up and get back into the game. When only one player is left standing, s/he becomes the counter for the next round. Variations: Change the middle person when one person has been in the middle for 2 minutes. The counter can say that they will point to the loudest corner.



Photography by Phil Peterson

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