25 Old-School Recess Games Your Students Should Be Playing Now

How many of these recess games from childhood do you remember?

Old-School Recess Games

Put down the phones. It’s time to go old school. Sure, there’s tag and hopscotch, but what about Spud and Ship to Shore? The next time your class needs to get outside to let off some steam or build teamwork and physical fitness, try one of these classic recess games.

1. Steal the Bacon

Steal the Bacon - 17 Recess Games

Part patience and listening, part sprint and tag. You can find out more by reading the rules.

Learn more: Physical Education Games

2. Colored Eggs

This exhilarating and creative game is sure to involve your entire class. After they play it once, it’ll be the only game they ever want to play!

Learn more: Living in Happy Place

3. Spud

Spud - 17 Recess Games

You can sit back and watch your students scatter over and over again—just hope that the students with the most energy aren’t the ones who get Spud first. 

Learn more: Growing Play

4. A Tisket, A Tasket

A duck-duck-goose variation that involves a basket with a letter in it and this nursery rhyme.

Learn more: Let’s Play Music

5. 44 Home

A more active version of hide-and-go-seek, 44 Home is extremely popular on elementary school playgrounds across the world. One person is the finder and counts while others hide. The finder finishes counting and yells “44 home!” and then tries to find where everyone is hiding before they make it back to base.

Learn more: BuzzFeed

6. Ship to Shore

Also known as Shipwreck, this fun Simon Says variation has students “hit the deck” and imitate a “man overboard.” 

Learn more: Playworks

7. Turtle Tag

This one’s bound to get a good laugh. It’s exactly the same as regular tag, except in order to avoid being caught by the tagger, students must lie on their backs with their hands and feet up in the air, like turtles.

Learn more: Lessons Learnt Journal

8. Zero 1, 2, 3

jumprope

Using one or two jump ropes, kids jump once, twice, three times (and so on) when it’s their turn. Add complexity by requiring kids to do tricks as they jump.

Learn more: Playworks

9. Kabaddi

This tag variation has been played for over 4,000 years in India and is also frequently played in Japan, Nepal, and Pakistan (among others). Why not try it out on your playground? It’s a guaranteed hit. 

Learn more: Kid World Citizen

10. Sardines

Sardines - 17 Recess Games

Think of this game as reverse hide-and-seek. Whoever is it hides while the other players count. The other players then try to find (and join) the person who is it. The last player outside the hiding spot is the new it.

Learn more: Group-Games

11. What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?

This game can best be described as Red Light, Green Light on overdrive. Students are tasked with getting by Mr. Fox before “lunchtime,” but it’s easier said than done—foxes tend to be quite clever. 

Learn more: Fatherly

12. DIY Chalk Twister

Outdoor Twister? Sign me up! The best part is that you don’t even need any extra equipment!

Learn more: Kids Activities

13. Four Square

Four Square - 17 Recess Games

The classic kickball game you play without kicking. All you need is four large numbered squares and any of the rules you can come up with. Break a rule, and you’re out, and the next player in line is in.

Learn more: SquareFour

14. Rabbit Hole

For young kids, this game is a sneaky way to get some balance, coordination, and motor control practice in during recess. Oh, and it’s fun, too!

Learn more: The Inspired Treehouse

15. Red Rover

Red Rover - 17 Recess Games

Red Rover, where you run headlong into a wall of peers, isn’t a game for the faint of heart. (Here is a video of a group of older students playing Red Rover.)

Learn more: Life Outside the Shell

16. Charlie over the Ocean

Charlie Over the Ocean - 17 Reess Games

Another one of the duck-duck-goose variety, in this version students sing this tune, then choose someone to chase after the song is over.

Learn more: The Unquowa School

17. Museum Guard

Also known as Statue, this game doesn’t require any running or a lot of open space (unlike its counterpart, freeze tag/dance). This makes it a particularly safe and easy option for both outdoor and indoor recess.

Learn more: Fern Smith’s Classroom Ideas

18. Kick the Can

Breathe new life into an old classic with a fresh can. Using a bright color will make the can impossible to miss and extra exciting to play with. 

Learn more: Dukes & Duchesses

19. Mother, May I?

kids running field

A good game for the bossy students in your class—students request to take five steps forward, hop forward on one foot, etc. and are granted permission (or not) by one student who calls the shots, until they get tagged. 

Learn more: Group-Games

20. Blind Man’s Bluff

Blind Man's Bluff - 17 Recess Games

If you can find a quiet, safe area and get permission to use blindfolds, this tag variation adds a new level of challenge when the person who is it has a blindfold on.

Learn more: Kidspot

21. Shadow Tag

A new twist on a classic, shadow tag is the perfect activity to shake up sunny days and get students moving. Instead of tagging others’ bodies, the child who is it must tag their shadows. This also decreases opportunities for roughhousing on the playground; it’s a win-win!

Learn more: Welcome to Room 2

22. Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag is an all-time favorite outdoor game for most kids. It’s best for slightly older kids and is a great way for them to exercise both their physical body and competitive nature. 

Learn more: LiveAbout

23. Doggy, Where’s Your Bone?

Doggy Doggy Where's Your Bone - 17 Recess Games

The person who is it gets three tries to guess who took an eraser, or other object that stands in as the bone, from under their chair. (Here’s an example of young students playing the game with a little tune.)

Learn more: Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

 

24. Guard the Queen Dodgeball

This outdoor dodgeball game is a clever revamp of traditional dodgeball. You can even play it outside with your class without worrying about runaway balls.

Learn more: Grandma Ideas

25. Murder

Sounds ominous, but it’s really fun! Where? Your classroom. How? A flick to the palm of the hand. 

Learn more: WikiHow

What are your favorite recess games to play with your class? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, check out our favorite team-building activities for the classroom.

25 Old-School Recess Games Your Students Should Be Playing Now

Posted by Samantha Cleaver

Samantha Cleaver, PhD, teaches middle school special education and writes about her favorite thing to do, reading.

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