Safe Indoor Recess Games Your Class Can Play During the Pandemic

Socially distant activities for a rainy day.

So, your school is back in session taking every precaution for safety and it’s a rainy day. The kids have been inside all day and in the same spot, mostly. They need a break, as we all do, but they can’t use a ball, share toys, or play together without being socially distant. What’s a teacher to do? Try these indoor recess games to help your class hit the “refresh” button and maybe even save your sanity.

Mr. Judge

Mr. Judge is a game I learned during my very first year of teaching and I’ve used it ever since with elementary students. Choose a student to stand in a corner facing away from the class. As they cover and close their eyes, point to another student who is at their seat with their hand raised and they will say, “Hello, Mr. Judge!” (or Miss Judge—or any variation that you like, such as the non-gender-specific Judgy Boo or Your Honor). The student in the corner now has to guess—without turning around—who said it. If they guess right, they may stay in the corner. If they guess wrong, the student who “tricked” their classmate gets a turn. You can keep track of correct answers for a tally at the end of recess, or just do it for fun The best part is when students disguise their voices to sound like someone else. And this year the fact that students will be wearing masks to muffle the sound ups the difficulty.

Jumping Contests

While students are at their desks, call on one at a time to stand on a line at the front of the room and see how far forward they can jump. Since you measure after each jump, there is little interaction. If you want to be a “sneaky teacher,” put the measured results on the board and ask the class to put the numbers in order, find the average, the mean, and the mode (if there is one) when class time resumes.

I’m Thinking of a Number

When I did my student teaching a million years ago, one of the third grade teachers, Mr. G., would gather all three classes when there was time to kill and play this game. He’d say, “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 100. What is it?” Then, when the guesses came, he’d say if it was higher or lower. I couldn’t believe something so simple could get kids as excited they were. And ten minutes went by in what seemed like a matter of seconds.

Hopscotch

This long-time favorite game of agility can be played by one student at a time using floor clings that you can buy online. You can set a time limit for each to complete the course, or have races using two sets of clings. Just be sure to keep the kids socially distanced and wipe everything down when the game is over.

Dance in Place

One of our easiest indoor recess games! Have the students stand by their desks and dance to music you play. Some schools are discouraging singing, so make sure it is a song without lyrics. I personally like the theme from Space Jam.

Charades

Another traditional party guessing game can give your class a fun break without coming into contact with each other. My favorite one is Animal Charades, but you can also do movies, book titles, insects—the sky is the limit. Just have one student go to the front of the room and do their thing while the rest tries to guess the answer.

Hot/Cold

Before school, hide items around the room and have students take turns trying to find each item on your list. One at a time students search the perimeter of the classroom for the stated object and adjust their approach while listening to your “getting warmer” and “getting colder” guidance.

Hang Man or Tic-tac-toe

These old-time favorites can be done on the front board, and students can take turns going up and taking their turn. If they have remote access to the smartboard from their devices, they can make their entries right from their desks as you direct the action.

Jeopardy

This is another game you can do with the entire class at their desks participating as you present it on the smartboard. You might split the class into teams and play a fun, non-academic Jeopardy game that you make using Jeopardy Labs or Super Teacher Tools. You can input data or search online for ones other teachers have created.

Active Brain Breaks

Many teachers give brain breaks between subjects or when their students’ attention seems to be fading. These types of activities can also be used during recess time. I ask students to get out of their seats, stand apart, and then listen for direction. I then ask them to pretend they are flying around like birds, swimming across a lake, out for a jog, or even running from an angry bear (while running in place). You can also do Simon Says with them while they are standing beside their separated desks.

Magic Carpet Ride

If you have separate carpet tiles for each student, have the kids sit on them six feet apart and pretend the tiles are magic carpets that will take them on a ride to faraway places. You can elicit student ideas on where they want to go in this activity, or you show a series of drone videos from YouTube on the smartboard. The students can also try to guess where each place is, which would be even more fun as you ask, “Where are we now boys and girls? How would we be feeling if we were really there? Hang on tight! Here comes another one!”

Stretch Break

I include this one because of my past experiences as a wrestling coach and P.E. teacher. Have the kids spread out and do exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, sit-ups, and leg raises. This physical activity would be good to do if gym activities have been reduced or eliminated at your school due to current circumstances.

Online Games on the Computer

If all else fails, use the time to let kids play age-appropriate fun games on their assigned laptops or Chromebooks. This is what a lot of the older kids might choose to do over the other indoor recess games if given a chance. It’s a sedentary option, which is why I list it last.

Do you have ideas for indoor recess games during this time of social distancing? Share on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.

Also, check out our list of virtual P.E. activities and websites

Safe Indoor Recess Games Your Class Can Play During the Pandemic

Posted by David Webb

Webb has taught for 29 years in both public and private schools. He has a Master's in Education and has taught in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. His memoir, Mr. Nomad: Tales of a Traveling Teacher, was reviewed by Publishers Weekly in November, 2016.

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