Some days it’s just too dreary or cold, or even too hot depending on where you live, for kids to go outside and get much needed recess time. But just because the weather isn’t cooperating doesn’t mean your students don’t need time to take a break and play. They just need some indoor recess games!
While free choice activities and time to just socialize with their peers are always an option, sometimes a structured indoor recess games are what your kids need. They’re fun, they give students a chance to bond as a community, and they help them learn important skills like listening, cooperating, and taking turns.
This article, along with many other articles on The Printable Princess, contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through the links I earn a small commission. Clicking these links does not cost you any extra but helps this website to keep great articles and freebies coming your way.
Here are 15 favorite indoor recess games your students will love!
1. Find it Fast
Have students gather on the rug or sit at their table spots. Call out a descriptor, for example ‘something square’, or ‘something soft’. Each student must find an object that matches the description and get to it quickly. Have each student hold up or point to the object they’ve chosen.
Give them time to look around the room and what their classmates have found. There are no right answers and it’s super fun to see how their little minds work. Talk for a couple of minutes about their choices then call out another descriptor.
2. Musical Chairs…without Chairs
Here’s a way to play this classic crowd-favorite in a safe, classroom-friendly way. Instead of using chairs, use carpet spots (or make your own with laminated construction paper).
Arrange the spots, just like you would chairs. Be sure to put a small distance between each spot to give students room to sit down. Just like in the traditional game, begin playing the music and have students walk around the spots. Once the music stops, students will quickly find the closest spot and take a seat. The person standing is out. Continue playing and removing a spot until there is only one player left.
If your group is too large for Chair-less Musical Chairs, divide students in to two groups. This way you can run two smaller, more manageable groups simultaneously.
Kids go nuts for this game! Before the game begins, prepare a poster or board with the answers to the questions you will be asking. For example, if your students are working on counting items, you might have pictures of 3 circles, 5 squares, 8 stars, etc. Or for addition, you might have numbers written on the board to match addition sentences. Large post-it pads work great for this game.
Now, divide your class into two teams and have them line up in two parallel lines. The first player from each team steps up to the answer board and is given a plastic flyswatter. You call out an answer, for example in the example above you might call out 8. The first player to swat the picture of 8 items wins and gets to stay in place. The other player goes to the end of his team’s line and the next player steps up and you call out another answer.
There are tons of ways to tailor this game to support whatever concept you’re currently working on. For example it’s a great way to teach kids the difference between the words to, too and two and there, their and they’re by using the word in a sentence and having the kids swat the right spelling.
4. Movement Memory
Have your students stand in one big circle. Pick one player to go first. That player will take a step forward into the circle and make a movement. For example, clap their hands three times. Then they step back into the circle. The player to their left then steps forward and claps three times then adds another movement such as jazz hands and steps back. The next player will then clap three times, do jazz hands, then add another movement.
Play continues around the circle, getting more difficult as more motions are added, until somebody forgets or makes the motions out of sequence. Play them starts again at the beginning again. The player who was last in the previous round gets to be first in the next round.
This activity is basically the same as the activity above, but it involves words instead of motions. It’s great for building listening and focus skills. The first player begins by saying, “In my basket for the picnic, I packed…” for example, “In my basket for the picnic, I packed sandwiches.” The next player would say “In my basket for the picnic, I packed sandwiches and lemonade.” Play continues as above then a new round starts.
6. Freeze Dance
One of the best indoor recess games is this super fun classic, which is perfect for letting your students get their wiggles out. Put on some lively music and let the kids dance around the room. When the music stops, they must freeze until they hear the music begin again. A surefire way to bring a happy vibe into your classroom.
7. Listening Game
Show students a tray of items with common everyday items, for example a comb, a glass, a book, etc. Give them a minute or two to make sure they’ve seen all the options. Now cover or hide the tray and have one student step forward.
Have that student close their eyes and listen carefully as you choose one item from the tray and make whatever sound you can with it. For example, run a popsicle stick along the tines of the comb, or ping the glass with a spoon, or open the book and clap it back together.
Without looking, the student must guess which item from the tray is making the noise. Call up different students to guess until all of the items have been guessed.
8. Alphabet Four Square
Have your students divide a dry erase board into four square with a dry erase marker. Label the quadrants Name, Place, Animal and Thing. Set a timer for few seconds.
All together, sing the alphabet song until the timer goes off. Take note of which letter you stop on. Students must then write (or draw) something that starts with that letter for each box. For example for the letter M, they might write or draw mom, mountains, mouse and mug.
After each round students can erase their boards and draw the quadrants again before the timer begins for the next round.
9. Four Corners
Designate each corner of your classroom with a number 1 through 4. Then have the kids spread out and stand at one of the 4 corners.
Select one child to sit in the middle and be the first counter. Have them close their eyes and count to 10. While they are counting, the other players can move around the classroom and choose a new corner to land on.
Before opening their eyes, the player in the middle calls out one of the 4 numbers. The players in that corner are out and should sit down out of the way.
Play starts again as the player in the middle closes their eyes and counts to ten and the rest of the players scramble around. The last child standing in a corner is the winner!
For a fun twist on this game label each corner with a sight word instead of a number. Or a word family – and have the caller name a word from the word family. Everyone in that corner is out.
10. Hot, Cold
Pick an object to be the treasure, like a stuffed animal or a colorful water bottle. Designate one person to be the treasure hunter and have another student escort them just outside your classroom door.
While he or she is out of the room, decide as a class (quietly!) where to hide the treasure. Once it is safely hidden, the treasure hunter comes back in and begins to search.
The other players can only provide clues for the treasure hunter by telling them if they are hot (really close), warm (kind of close), cool (kind of far away), or cold (really far away). The treasure hunter continues to search until the treasure is found, then a new hunter is selected.
11. Silent ball
Students sit or stand in a large circle. The object of the game is to toss a squishy ball around (they can toss it around the circle in any direction) without making a sound.
Start the game with “3-2-1 silent!” then get the ball started. Students are out if they talk or make noise, make a bad pass or don’t catch the ball.
Make it clear before the game that silly sounds like fake coughs or sneezes count as noises as much as talking.
12. Human Knot
Group your students into circles of about 8-10 kids. Have each person in each circle take the hand of another person (doesn’t have to be the person right next to them). Then have them join hands with a different person with their left hand. The object of the game is to untangle the human knot they’ve created without breaking the circle (without dropping hands).
13. Pass the Rubber Chicken
This is one of the most hilarious indoor recess games and worth the investment of one rubber chicken. First, teach your kids the Chicken Dance by showing them a tutorial on YouTube.
To begin have your students sit in a circle and give the rubber chicken to one student. You will ask that student a question such as ‘Name six things that begin with the letter K’. As soon as you’ve asked the question, they will pass the chicken to the person on their right and the other students will quickly pass it around hoping to pass it all the way back to the original person before they’ve had a chance to answer the question.
If the chicken makes it all the way around before the answer is answered correctly the person has to stand and do the chicken dance. If they do answer the question before it makes it around, whoever is holding the chicken becomes the next one to answer a question.
14. Museum Guard
Kids have so much fun pretending to be statues in a museum that come to life when the guard isn’t looking. To begin, one person is appointed “guard,” and the rest of the students are appointed “statues”.
The guard stands at the edge of the classroom and turns his or her back. While his or her back is turned, the statues come to life and move and dance around (quietly!). Once the guard turns around, all of the statues have to freeze. If the guard catches a player moving, they’re out. Play continues until there is only one statue standing.
15. Would you Rather
This game is a fun way for students to get to one another (and themselves!) a little better. Prepare the room by pushing desks aside and putting a long piece of tape on the floor down the middle of the classroom. Ask a question such as “Would you rather eat a spider or walk ten miles?” As you ask the question, point to one side of the tape or other so that students know which side of the room to move to to place their vote. Give students time to look around at who has the same opinion as them and who chose the other option.
We spend so much at school time focused on academics, it’s fun to cut loose and play indoor recess games once in a while! Not only will your kids have a blast, they may just learn a thing or two, bond with their classmates and walk away with some great memories. There are some great indoor recess ideas that involve building and creating that are fun, too!
If you’re able to head outdoors with your students, try these 14 Outdoor Games for Kids that perfect for Kindergarten classes!