55 Sanity-Saving Indoor Recess Games, Activities, and More Ideas

Plenty of indoor-friendly ways to get the wiggles out.

Examples of indoor recess games and ideas such as folding origami and STEM challenges with play dough and popsicle sticks.
We Are Teachers, Red Ted Art, Laughing Kids Learn

The seasons have changed, and once again it’s time to plan indoor recess games and activities. Indoor recess may not be everyone’s favorite—after all, it throws off the regular rhythm of the day and deprives kids of much-needed running-around time. But the good news is indoor recess actually has benefits. Playing in the classroom can help kids build social skills like teamwork, cooperation, and sharing. It can give them time for creative play and free choice (which, in the course of a regular school day, may not happen very often). And it can also teach kids to choose appropriate activities and use their time wisely.

To get you started, here are 55 fun ideas for indoor recess games and activities, some new and some tried-and-true.

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Arts and Crafts Indoor Recess Ideas

1. Paint, color, draw

A young girl paints at a table
Caiaimage/Robert Daly via Getty Images

No instructions necessary—most kids know exactly what to do with free art time. All they need is lots of paper (you can even retrieve some from the recycling bin), colored pencils, crayons, markers, and/or paint.

Learn more: Art Projects That Only Require Basic Supplies at We Are Teachers

2. Bust out the Play-Doh

Preschoolers sitting at a table playing with playdoh
nilimage via iStock Photos

Who doesn’t love that squishy, funky-smelling stuff? Add fun, easy-to-find accessories like cookie cutters, letter stamps, and shape molds and watch students get busy.

Learn more: Genius Ways To Use Play-Doh in the Classroom at We Are Teachers

3. Set up a makerspace

Children working in a classroom makerspace
skynesher via iStock Photos

The popularity of makerspaces has introduced kids to the possibilities of using a variety of everyday supplies—such as pasta, yarn, wire, paper tubes, plastic lids, and pom-poms—to create original works.

Learn more: What Is a Makerspace? at We Are Teachers

4. Fold origami

A selection of printable origami instruction sheets on a green background, including various animals and other objects.
We Are Teachers

There are numerous books and videos that teach students the ancient art of folding paper into whimsical shapes. Have a few resources available, along with a supply of fresh paper.

Learn more: Easy Origami Projects for Kids (Videos and Printable Instructions) at We Are Teachers

5. Learn to weave

Weaving is a simple pleasure and results in really beautiful pieces of art. Here is a simple tutorial video for weaving with yarn or string. And here is another YouTube video that teaches paper-strip weaving. Once students are introduced to the process, they can do it independently whenever they have time.

6. Make button jewelry

children playing with buttons
Toddler Approved/Buttons via toddlerapproved.com

One craft supply that’s fun to stockpile is buttons. Buttons come in so many interesting sizes, shapes, and colors. Kids can string them into necklaces or bracelets or glue them onto paper to create colorful mosaics.

Learn more: Bright Ways To Use Buttons

7. Try directed drawing

directed drawing activities for kids
We Are Teachers

Give kids who like to draw a step-by-step tutorial, and you’ll be amazed at how focused they become. Visit your school library for learn-to-draw books—usually some of the most popular checkouts in their inventory.

Learn more: Free Directed Drawing Activities Anyone Can Do at We Are Teachers

8. Make collages

Kids' Picasso-inspired collage activity
Artful Parent/Picasso via artfulparent.com

Keep a collection of old magazines that kids can use to find and cut out images to piece together into colorful collages. Or use construction paper scraps to create a Picassoesque collage.

Learn more: Collage Activities at Artful Parent

9. Get focused with mandala coloring pages

A colorful mandala picture
Coloring Nation/Mandalas via coloringnation.com

One of our favorite indoor recess ideas for kids of all ages! Coloring mandalas is a super-relaxing activity. It can be the perfect way to reset your students’ energy levels before getting back to work.

Learn more: Free mandala coloring pages at Coloring Home

10. Layer sand art

Have on hand a number of containers with different-colored sand, empty mason jars, and small funnels. Teach kids how to layer different colors of sand into the jars, using toothpicks to create striations, for a gorgeous take-home project.

11. Create tissue paper mosaics

Have a healthy supply of colored tissue paper and a bottle of Elmer’s glue available. Give students a piece of heavy card stock. Cut or tear small squares or random shapes from the colored tissue paper. Overlap pieces so that no white shows underneath. Designs can be random, or you can sketch out a design ahead of time and fill it in with tissue.

12. Make yarn pom-poms

Those of us of a certain age remember spending hours making yarn crafts. This one is quick and easy and can be used in many ways, from garlands to key chains to shoe adornments.

Physical Activity and Movement Indoor Recess Games and Ideas

13. Create music with Boomwhackers

Boomwhackers are colorful plastic tubes that are designed to make gentle musical tones when tapped against hard surfaces. Let students tap into their inner Mozart and compose their own musical arrangements.

Buy it: Boomwhackers on Amazon

14. Try GoNoodle

Kids moving to GoNoodle in the classroom
Common Sense/GoNoodle via commonsense.org

So many teachers count on GoNoodle, specifically the indoor-recess channel, as their go-to for indoor recess. The videos are fun and engaging and get kids up and moving.

Learn more: GoNoodle

15. Practice yoga

This online yoga station is a great source for 10- to 15-minute videos made just for kids. They use stories, music, and characters to make yoga fun.

16. Have a dance party

And I'm bad like the Barbie / I'm a doll but I still want to party.
We Are Teachers

Put on Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance Kids, or any kids music channel and boogie away your recess.

Learn more: Best Dance Music for Kids at We Are Teachers

17. Express yourself with ribbon dancing

Use cardboard paper-towel tubes and crepe paper to create ribbon sticks. Put on a little music and let kids dance to their own beat.

18. Toss around scarves

kids playing with silk scarves as an example of indoor recess games and activities

Silky scarves are a great tool for encouraging creative movement. Kids love to dance, twirl, and juggle with them. (They’re also great for creating impromptu costumes and forts.)

Buy it: Silky Scarves on Amazon

19. Stack cups

Cup stacking helps develop dexterity and speed. Kids can set goals independently, work as teams, or have a little friendly competition as they practice their skills.

Buy it: Stacking Cups on Amazon

20. Play indoor hopscotch

Use painter’s tape to create a hopscotch grid on the carpet or tile. Substitute stones with crumpled-up paper.

21. Follow the Wellness Way

Posters displayed on the wall lead students through a fitness routine
Sanford Health/Wellness Way via fit.sanfordhealth.org

Check out this free set of printable posters that’ll get your kids up and moving. Kids can follow any of the three color-coded paths—move, recharge, and mood.

Learn more: Wellness Way from Fit at Sanford Health

22. Play Simon Says

Clear a corner of the classroom and play a good old-fashioned game of Simon Says. Let students take turns being the leader and encourage them to include lots of physical movement in the game.

23. Practice Pokemon Karate

Start with an “extra-special warmup” and learn three karate moves from Dojo Go! Make sure you give kids lots of space so no one gets hurt!

STEM Exploration and Challenges Indoor Recess Ideas

24. Create with colorful pipe cleaners

ABC written with pipe cleaners
Make and Takes/learning letters with pipe cleaners via makeandtakes.com

For some reason, most kids are fascinated by these fuzzy, flexible art supplies! The possibilities for creating bendy sculptures are limitless—from jewelry to accessories like hats and purses, animals shapes, and more.

Learn more: Clever and Colorful Pipe Cleaner Crafts and Learning Activities at We Are Teachers

25. Build Popsicle-stick contraptions

Craft sticks connected with purple play dough
Laughing Kids Learn/2D Shapes via laughingkidslearn.com

Keep a supply of large and small Popsicle sticks and let kids build creative contraptions, using Play-Doh as joints.

Learn more: 2D Shape Activity at Laughing Kids Learn

26. Devise tower challenges

Pieces of spaghetti stuck together with blue painters tape
Tinkerlab/Spaghetti via tinkerlab.com

There are so many easy-to-find materials kids can use for building towers and structures. Think straws, spaghetti, painter’s tape, toothpicks, marshmallows, and Wikki Stix, to name just a few.

Learn more: Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower Challenge on Tinkerlab

27. Construct with egg cartons

A DIY egg carton flower bouquet
Red Ted Art/egg carton via redtedart.com

The possibilities are endless for creating out of recycled egg cartons. Houses, towns, cars, critters, 3D art, and more. Before using egg cartons, make sure none of your students has an egg allergy.

Learn more: Egg Carton Art on Red Ted Art

28. Free-build

Kids on the floor building with blocks
vgajic via iStock Photos

There is no end to the creative play kids can engage in with building sets like K’NEX, Magna-Tile, LEGO, and many more. True, store-bought building supplies can be pricey. Some suggestions? Shop secondhand stores or garage sales, ask families that may have outgrown their supplies for donations, or ask for money on DonorsChoose. Check out this blog for some popular options.

Learn more: Best STEM Toys for Kids at We Are Teachers

29. Put together puzzles

Examples of the best puzzles for kids
We Are Teachers / Vasanthakumar via Amazon reviews / Char via Amazon reviews

Puzzles help kids develop spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination, memory, and recall. They also encourage teamwork, cooperation, and sharing.

Learn more: Best Puzzles for Kids of All Ages at We Are Teachers

30. Create a kinesthetic sand town

Kinesthetic sand is a favorite with kids of all ages. Challenge a small group of students to create a small town, perhaps incorporating action figures and using paper to add in roads and signs.

31. Build LEGO bridges

This is a beginner LEGO challenge for preschoolers and kindergartners. Design a LEGO bridge that crosses over a “river,” a distance of about 6 inches, using only LEGO bricks and no plates.

Classic Indoor Recess Games

32. Play board games

Children playing a board game on a round table
S&S/Board Games via ssww.com

Board games are the old standby in most classrooms. Kids can’t seem to get enough of them. And playing games helps kids build logic and social skills. Teacher tip: Keep your eye out for board games at garage sales and thrift stores.

Learn more: Best Board Games for Kids at We Are Teachers

33. Play card games

Two photos of classroom math card games
We Are Teachers / Builder’s Paradise via Math Geek Mama / Make a Prime via Games 4 Learning

Quick and easy to set up, card games are a great opportunity for kids to learn about taking turns, strategy, and following rules. Some perennial favorites: Uno, War, and Go Fish. You can also sneak in some language arts and math card games that teach kids skills while they play.

Learn more: Math Card Games for Students to Ace at We Are Teachers

34. Bust out the geoboards

A blue geoboard with a white snowflake in the center as an example of indoor recess games and activities
Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls/geoboards via frugalfun4boys.com

Geoboards are not only cool math manipulatives, they also lend themselves well to creative play.

Learn more: Clever Ways To Use Geoboards in the Classroom at We Are Teachers

35. Have a checkers or chess challenge

Funny how these two games have stood the test of time. Here’s a good video about getting to know the game of chess by Kids Academy.

36. Play a mini version of cornhole

Two people playing a tabletop version of cornhole game

Kids playing toss with bean bags could easily get out of hand in the classroom. So why not try a miniature version? The skills required are the same (on a smaller scale), but the amount of fun they’ll have is just the same.

Buy it: Desktop Version of Corn Hole on Amazon

37. Try a mini version of Jenga

A pile of mini Jenga blocks

This fun game combines logic skills and cooperation. The mini version is a perfect fit for the classroom (and doesn’t make as big of a racket when the tower falls).

Buy it: Desktop Jenga Game on Amazon

38. Create your own mancala game

Two kids sitting on the grass playing mancala
Be a Fun Mum/DIY Mancala via beafunmum.com

Mancala is one of the world’s oldest games. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and super easy to make on your own. Simply use egg cartons and marbles, shells, or dried beans.

Learn more: DIY Mancala game from Be a Fun Mum

39. Challenge your students to a Minute To Win It game

Minute to win it games including cereal box puzzle and boy trying to keep balloons in the air.
We Are Teachers /Ballon Challenge via Happy Mom Hacks / Cereal Box Puzzle via Happy Mom Hacks 

Create a mock-up of the popular game show right in your classroom. Pinterest is a great source—there are tons of pins for fun Minute To Win It challenges.

Learn more: Fun and Easy Minute To Win It Games at We Are Teachers

40. Play Heads Up, Seven Up

Kids in the classroom with their heads on their desks
Alchetron/Seven Up game via alchetron.com

Generations of students have loved this whole-class guessing game. It’s not only great for indoor recess, it’s also a great time-filler when you have 5 to 10 minutes between activities.

Learn more: Heads Up, Seven Up from The Game Gal

41. Toss around a Silent Ball

Kids standing in a circle tossing a ball around as an example of indoor recess games and activities
Playworks/Silent Ball via playworks.org

Students form a circle and toss a squishy ball to other students, one at a time, around the room. The number-one rule is to remain silent. If a student isn’t silent, they are out and must sit on their chair or on the floor. They are out if they don’t catch the ball. If they fall off the desk, they are out. You can throw in fun variations, like clap once or clap twice between tosses. You can also set rules like no toss-backs.

Learn more: How To Play Silent Ball from Playworks

42. Play Four Corners

Another fun whole-class game! You might have to cluster desks or tables together to make space. One player is chosen as “it” and stands in the middle with their eyes closed. The rest of the class is given a few seconds to choose a corner to stand in, then the person who is it calls out a number from one to four. The players in that corner have to step out of the game. Kids are encouraged to move quietly and cooperatively, as they know the student who is it is listening carefully. Play continues until there is only one student left in the game.

Learn more: How To Play Four Corners from Wikihow

Indoor Recess Games Using Technology

43. Play online games

Laptop with phonics games on screen as an example of the best online educational games for kids.
We Are Teachers; Roy: Tale of a Singing Zebra

Whether we love it or not, kids love free time on their devices! Luckily, allowing them time to explore vetted and approved sites can actually be educational. In addition, online games help build problem-solving, strategizing, and concentration skills and more.

Learn more: Favorite Online Games That Are Fun and Educational Too at We Are Teachers

44. Listen to and watch read-alouds

Let your students explore different authors and genres with online read-alouds. There are many different resources that provide top-quality graphics and narrators that make stories fun and interesting.

Learn more: The Best Read-Alouds on YouTube at We Are Teachers

45. Go on a virtual field trip

Two images showing virtual field trips for kids
We Are Teachers

Take a field trip in the comfort of your own classroom! Learn about how a recycling center works or how to make slime in space. Explore the Louvre or the Great Wall of China. Virtual field trips are a wonderful tool to expand students’ horizons.

Learn more: Amazing Educational Virtual Field Trips at We Are Teachers

46. Practice math skills

Collage of online interactive math games including Number Bonds Match and Algebra Jeopardy
We Are Teachers / Number Bonds via Math Playground / Exponents Jeopardy via Math Play

Nothing makes math learning easier than playing math games. From foundational skills like counting and addition to more complex topics like coordinate planes and quadratic equations, math games help kids practice the skills they need to build a solid math foundation.

Learn more: Fun Online Interactive Math Games for Every Grade Level at We Are Teachers

47. Practice skills with educational iPad games

Collection of Educational iPad Games for Kids
We Are Teachers

There are a lot of terrific iPad games for kids that are designed for learning but disguised as fun! Give your students permission to practice some of these fun games, which cover reading, math, science, social studies, and more.

Learn more: Make Screen Time Meaningful With Teachers’ Favorite Educational iPad Games for Kids at We Are Teachers

48. Work on brainteasers and puzzles

A screenshot from Safe Kid Games as an example of indoor recess games and activities
Safe Kid Games/puzzle games via safekidgames.com

From connect the dots and word searches to jigsaw puzzles and more, online games are just as fun as the paper versions.

Learn more: Puzzle Games from Safe Kid Games

Old-School Indoor Recess Games and Ideas

49. Play Twister

Three kids playing the game Twister as an example of indoor recess games and activities

Silly, funny, and challenging, Twister is a favorite for everyone.

Buy it: Twister on Amazon

50. Stitch up a sewing project

Kids around a table sewing stuffed animals
Sew a Softie/rules via sewasoftie.com

Put out scraps of fabric and needles and thread and let kids explore the lost art of sewing.

Learn more: Golden Rules for Teaching Kids to Sew at Sew a Softie

51. Introduce them to Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs

A child building with Tinkertoys
OC Register/Tinkertoys via ocregister.com

More building, this time with an old-school feel.

Buy it: Tinkertoys on Amazon

52. Spin some beautiful art with a Spirograph

Young boy playing with a Spirograph

Remember those wildly colorful circles you created with the different-sized discs on your Spirograph? Your students will love them as much as you did.

Buy it: Spirograph on Amazon

53. Introduce your students to jacks

Once a playground obsession, jacks is a simple game that kids can play independently or with a partner. And if your students really get into it, they can even play tournament-style.

Buy it: Jacks on Amazon

54. String up a game of Cat’s Cradle

Another simple hands-on activity that’s easy to teach and easy to play. All you need is a string, maybe a few YouTube tutorials, and your imagination.

55. Try your hand at knitting

First, teach your students how to make simple yarn chains. Once they have developed those fine motor skills, introduce them to knitting with thick needles. Knitting is such a meditative practice—it can transform a chaotic free-for-all into a calm, cozy break.

What are your go-to indoor recess games? Come and share in our We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Also, if you like these indoor recess games, check out Old-School Recess Games Your Students Should Be Playing Now.

Here are 55 awesome indoor recess games and activities that have been tried and tested by teachers for those days when you need them.