When you ask young kids what their favorite subject in school is, they’d probably answer “Recess!” — loudly, proudly, and genuinely happy.
And who can blame them? They’re right at the age when they want to play games, hang out with their friends, and have a good time. Of course, they’d have a soft spot in their hearts for their free time during the school day when they can do all that.
But what about when rain and snow hit and your younger students are all stuck inside the classroom for recess? Sitting inside doing nothing isn’t much fun.
But the good news is there are plenty of fun games and activities you and your students can play indoors! If you’re expecting inclement weather for the week, you can plan fun indoor recess activities ahead of time.
Here are the 23 best indoor recess games you and your kids can play on the next snowy or rainy day.
1. Four Corners
Starting off our list is Four Corners — a simple, easy, and, most importantly, fun game to play with the whole class. It’s a “last man standing wins” type of game. There are slight variations on how people can play this game, but here’s how we do it:
- Start by assigning a number (or color) to each corner of the room.
- Draw lots or choose one student to be “it” and have them stand in the middle of the room.
- The student in the middle closes their eyes and starts to count down from 10.
- While they’re counting, the rest of the students need to pick a corner and stand in it. Whoever fails to get to a corner before the countdown ends will need to take their seat.
- Once the countdown is done, the “it” student chooses a corner by shouting its number or color.
- Any students standing in that corner are now out of the game and need to sit down. If there are no students in the called out corner, then all students sitting down get to join the fun again.
- The game continues until there’s only one player left. The winner gets to be the “it” for the next round.
Hopscotch is old but gold when it comes to playground games. If it’s raining outside, you can easily make an indoor hopscotch ladder using masking tape. It’s a super simple game that almost everyone knows how to play.
Here are a few tips for a happy, hopping time:
- Make a few hopscotch ladders around the classroom so your students can break off into small groups to play.
- Draw different ladders to challenge your kids!
- Make the hopscotch longer or draw triangle shapes for smaller, more challenging spaces.
- You can also make a snail hopscotch. Draw the squares within a spiral like a snail’s shell, with the centermost circle as the “home” or final square.
3. Freeze Dance
Freeze dance is a great activity to help restless young kids burn their excess energy. And it’s a straightforward game to organize, too! You only need a speaker, a music player, and a list of fun, upbeat songs.
If you’re planning to do this activity well in advance, you can ask your students for their favorite songs and play those instead. That’s sure to get them up on their feet and dancing.
Just let the songs play and stop them at random intervals. While the music plays, your students can show off their best dance moves or chicken dance their way through — what matters is they have fun! But once the song stops, they need to freeze and stay frozen until you start up the music again.
Whoever moves is out of the game! Keep going until you get one last person remaining.
4. Floor Is Lava
Who doesn’t know how to play this Floor is Lava? This game will surely be a hit not just with the younger kids but even older students in their pre-teen years.
Just shout out, “The floor is lava!” and watch as your students scramble to get to higher ground! After that, tell them to find a way to reach the front of the room and watch the hijinks that ensue.
While that’s a great way to encourage unstructured play, you can also prepare a bit more fun and difficulty:
- Arrange the chairs and tables strategically.
- Lay down pieces of paper on the floor to serve as “safe” land.
- Make the paper in different sizes for added challenge and spread them across the room.
- To make the game even more challenging, you can use different construction paper colors and assign a time limit for staying on them.
5. Red Light, Green Light
Here’s another game to fill your classroom with laughter and giggles. Not only is this game fun and playable with lots of people, but it also helps your kids develop awareness, observation skills, and listening skills.
- Mark your starting area and finish line.
- The chosen leader stands at the finish line and gets to call out the red light or green light.
- For the “green light,” the kids can all move toward the finish line. For “red light,” they need to stop and freeze in place.
- Anyone caught still moving during the “red light” must go back to the starting area.
- The first person to reach the finish line becomes the next leader.
To make the game easier for any students who are hard of hearing, the leader can also have their backs turned against the players during a green light and turn around during red light.
Now here’s a classic game perfect for the rainy season! This indoor game is also ideal for combining fun and games with your lessons. You and your class can take turns acting out and guessing animal names, places, historical figures, and more.
Charades can be played as a large group with the entire class. You can also spark your kids’ competitive spirit by dividing them into two groups and having them compete with who can guess more words. You also award more points for correct answers depending on how fast they guess it.
7. Indoor Basketball
Staying indoors doesn’t mean no outdoor games or sports at all. A lot of sports kids play outdoors can be played in the classroom with just a few tweaks to the rules. If you’ve got students who love playing basketball, you can make an indoor court by pushing tables and chairs to the side of the room.
Instead of hoops, you can set up a picnic or laundry basket on two opposite sides of the room. For the ball, they can use a beach ball or any other soft ball for safety. This means there’s no dribbling necessary, which may help reduce any injuries. The game is still good for boosting motor skills.
8. Heads Up!
Heads up is not only a great game for rainy and snowy days but it’s also a fun activity to give your students brain breaks while studying. This is a guessing game that may favor older kids, though. The game can be played by groups or by simply partnering students.
To play this, you’ll need a marker and several pieces of paper cut into rectangles. You may also need some masking tape.
- Decide on the words your students need to guess. You can make a set of words based on a theme, like sports, books, classmates, and more.
- Each pair of students take turns guessing their assigned word.
- The paper with the word they are guessing is usually held in front of their forehead.
- The guesser can only ask yes and no questions to get clues. They get 60 seconds to ask questions.
- They need to guess as many words as possible to win.
If you’re playing the game with the entire class, you can also use the Heads Up app and your phone to generate random words for the students to guess.
9. Newspaper Dance
Dance activities are always entertaining. For this particular game, you’ll need a newspaper or any other sheet of paper in a similar size, a speaker, and some fun music queued up.
Here’s how you play this game:
- Have your students choose a partner.
- Give a page of newspaper for each pair.
- When the music is playing, the pairs need to dance around their newspaper.
- When the music stops, the pairs need to jump onto the newspaper.
- Both their feet must be on the paper. If even a small part of their feet is on the floor, they will need to sit the next rounds out. The same applies if they can’t balance on the paper and fall down.
- Fold the newspaper in half before starting the next round of dancing.
- Repeat until only one pair is left.
10. New and Classic Board Games
Indoor recess days may not happen frequently, but having a few classic board games stored and waiting to be used is always a good idea. This way, you’re also giving your more introverted students a more fun way to spend time with a small group of friends.
You can also ask your students to bring their favorite board games to school. This can even be a fun weekly event for your class! Let your students explore their options and choose which board games to play and who to play with.
11. Cosmic Kids Yoga
A lot of people raise their eyebrows when we suggest teaching younger children to do yoga. Still, we stand by this activity. While it isn’t as exciting as your typical indoor recess period activities, it’s a great option to help kids cool down after playing very active games.
Even if you don’t practice yoga yourself, there are many guides and interactive videos online. Cosmic Kids Yoga offers some easy poses to help your students burn some energy and calm their excitement over recess.
12. Indoor Scavenger Hunt
Rainy or snowy days are the perfect time to organize an indoor scavenger hunt. There are two ways you can go about this.
First is by hiding specific items throughout the classroom for students to find. Second is by giving students a list with item descriptions only, like something soft, something noisy, and more. Indoor scavenger hunts can help foster social skills, teamwork, and more.
13. Hot Potato
Hot Potato is another classic yet fun classroom game. You’ll definitely have a lot of loud laughing or even shouting while playing this game, especially with younger kids.
You’ll need a soft ball, a small bean bag, or any other small and soft item. All the children need to do is keep passing the ball to the next person without dropping it. However, whoever is holding the ball when the music stops will be out of the game.
14. Indoor Obstacle Course
Turn your classroom into an indoor obstacle course using the toys and equipment in your classroom — toys, pillows, hula hoops, chairs, tables, and more. Playing this game helps improve the gross motor skills and coordination of younger students.
In general, the goal of the game is to finish the obstacle course within the time limit. Alternatively, you can group the class into two and watch them compete for first place.
15. Paper Airplanes
Here is another easy activity to arrange on the fly — paper airplanes! All you need are some paper in different colors and a group of imaginative kids. If your students don’t know how to make paper airplanes, teach them the basic steps then encourage them to find creative ways to improve the basic design.
You can end the activity there and simply display their creations afterward. Or you can hold a paper airplane race to find out whose unique paper airplane design flies the farthest. This can help promote critical thinking and hone fine motor skills of your students.
16. Flyswatter Quiz Bee or Math Games
You can turn an indoor recess period into a fun learning experience. Level up your quiz bees, trivia games, or math games with the use of fly swatters and a large piece of paper.
On the paper, you can write down letter choices for multiple choice questions or the answers themselves. Divide students into two equal groups (or more if needed) and give each group a fly swatter.
Have them line up in front of their large answer paper and start asking questions. The first player to smack the right answers on their paper gets the point.
17. Simon Says
Simon Says is best played with a big group of kids though it can also be played with small groups. It’s an entertaining indoor game that almost everyone has played at least once. Additionally, it can help improve your students’ listening skills, awareness, and ability to follow instructions.
18. Musical Chairs
Musical chairs is a very similar game to freeze dance and newspaper dance. This time, instead of dancing in place or around a newspaper page, your students need to dance while going around a circle of chairs.
When the music stops, they need to find an empty chair to sit on. Whoever doesn’t have a seat, will be out and joins the rest of the class in watching the game unfold. And like with freeze dance, the last person remaining wins the game.
19. Hot or Cold
If you’re spending indoor recess time inside your classroom, playing Hot or Cold will help your students pass time while enjoying themselves. It’s easy to set up, too!
- Choose a student to become the seeker or treasure hunter.
- Ask the treasure hunter to go out of the classroom while you hide the “treasure”.
- Once you’ve hidden the treasure well, you can let the seeker in.
- While blindfolded, they’ll walk around the classroom while following the remaining students’ advice on where the treasure is hidden.
- The other students will shout out “hot” or “cold” or “warmer” to give the seeker an idea whether they are getting close to the hidden item.
20. Arts and Craft Free Play
You can’t forget about arts and craft activities when talking about indoor recess ideas. There is an endless list of arts and crafts activities you can organize to keep your students occupied and happy.
Free drawing or painting activities may sound plain but it can help stimulate kids’ creativity. It’s also one of the best examples of unstructured play.
You can also teach kids how to make items like:
- Macaroni jewelry
- Paper bead jewelry
- Masks from paper plates
- Finger or hand puppets
- Pipe cleaner flowers
21. Balloon Race
Balloon games are always a hit with kids. As long as you have a pack of balloons and an inflator pump, you won’t run out of emergency indoor games. Holding a balloon race is a great way to get the whole class excited and on their feet — even older kids.
Here’s how we love to do balloon races:
- Divide your students into groups of five or more.
- Place chairs equal to the number of groups in one end of the room.
- Give each group a large balloon.
- Each member of the group takes turns walking to their chair with the balloon between their legs, going around the chair, and returning to their group.
- The next player in line gets the balloon and does the same.
- When the last player takes his turn, instead of going back to the group, they take the balloon and sit on it to pop it.
- The first team whose player pops their balloon wins the game.
22. Card Games
If your students are already around or nearing pre-teen age, then card games make for great rainy indoor activities. There are many card games kids can play with a traditional deck of cards. Some of the best ones to teach your students are:
- Go Fish
- Old Maid
- Memory or concentration
Allowing your students to play physical trading card games, like Pokemon, may also be a great idea. These can be a nice, colorful alternative to traditional card games. Plus, it’s likely something your students already love and do.
23. Jigsaw Puzzle
Last but certainly not the least is the good, ol’ jigsaw puzzle. Depending on the size and difficulty of the puzzle you choose, this can give you hours or even days of play, teamwork, and fun. The more kids join the activity, the faster you can find the missing puzzle pieces and put them in their rightful place.
As a bonus, playing with jigsaw puzzles can help boost children’s brain development, fine motor skills, and more.