7 Ways to Keep Students Entertained During Indoor Recess Without Losing Your Sanity
If you dread indoor recess, you aren't alone. Losing outdoor recess means teachers lose a much-needed break, but it also means students don't get the chance to burn off steam by running around on the playground. It can feel like a lose-lose situation. But it's definitely not!
Indoor recess allows students to practice different social skills, like teamwork and sharing. It can also give them the experience of free choice in the classroom, which can create a more comfortable atmosphere when it's time to get back to business.
Although a successful indoor recess does require extra prep, it doesn't need to cause you to lose your sanity! You can keep the kids occupied while still catching up on your emails or grading a few papers.
Here are our favorite ways to keep students entertained during recess.
#1 - Create Indoor Recess Stations
One of the best ways to make sure all of your students are entertained during indoor recess is to give them plenty of options. However, without a structure, it's easy for students to lose board game pieces and craft supplies, not to mention the mayhem that can ensue!
Creating indoor recess stations can help you keep everything in one spot. It also helps you clarify rules and expectations. Most students are familiar with the station format due to the existing instruction, so following it during recess doesn't require any new directions.
Just make sure you choose stations that are fun! Some great ideas for indoor recess stations include the following:
- Coloring with crayons, colored pencils, and markers
- Board games and card games
- Building blocks, like Legos or K'NEX
- Playdough and modeling clay
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Crossword puzzles, word finds, and other worksheet puzzles
Are you wondering which stations will be most popular? Ask your students! If you find out there are a lot of kids who want to play with building blocks, for example, you might set up two separate stations with the same activity so all the students get to do what they want during recess.
#2 - Host a Competition
Let kids get into the competitive spirit during recess! Not only does it give them something fun to do, but it also teaches good sportsmanship.
The question is, what kind of competition do you host?
Think about the students you have in your class this year and what they might like. An energetic class might appreciate a jump rope contest to see who can jump the longest, while a low-energy class might appreciate a checkers competition.
Other ideas include
- Stacking cups
You can always let your students vote on what kind of competition they would like if you're feeling stuck.
Not all students have to compete, either. Students who don't want to play can still participate in different roles. For example, one student might like to keep track of the winner and the loser of each game, while another might be in charge of making sure participants practice good sportsmanship.
Just make sure there's something for students to do once they are no longer in the competition. They may want to continue watching, but they may also want to find something else to do, whether it be coloring or playing a game with another student who is no longer competing.
#3 - Bring Out Mini Desktop Games
Board games and card games are always handy during indoor recess. There's nothing wrong with bringing out the classics, but there's just something about miniature things that kids love, so why not build a collection of mini desktop games?
You can find mini versions of just about every kind of game, from Monopoly to Battleship and even Jenga. The best part is that mini-games often cost less than their regular-sized counterparts, which means you can build a great game cabinet for less!
Just make sure you have rules in place to help prevent missing pieces. For example, students may have to check off the pieces on a list as they put them back in the box, or you might only get one mini-game out at a time to make sure the pieces don't end up getting mixed together.
#4 - Play a Workout Video
One of the best parts of outdoor recess is the fact that students can get some exercise, but they can get exercise in the classroom too! You don't have to instruct a yoga or aerobics class either. There are plenty of online workout videos you can play so students can burn off some steam before afternoon instruction.
There are a lot of great workout classes for kids that you can find on YouTube. You could play a yoga video one day and mix things up with a cardio video the next day. You could also feature a different era every time you have indoor recess. For example, one day, you could play an '80s cardio workout.
#5 - Do Something Messy
Kids love to get messy, but it isn't something they usually get to do in the classroom. Find messy activities they can do, and they are certain to stay busy all indoor recess long!
Some of our favorite messy activities include:
- Finger painting
- Creating sand art
- Building a kinetic sand town
- Playing with water beads at a water table
- Make bracelets and necklaces out of beads
It is a good idea to outline cleanup expectations ahead of time. Let students know where they can and can't do messy activities and what you expect from them when it's time to put things away.
It's also a good idea to start cleaning up a few minutes before the end of recess. That way, you have enough time to clean up before class starts again.
#6 - Teach a Craft
Crafts are great indoor recess activities, but they can be intimidating for some students. It can be difficult to look at a table covered in craft supplies and figure out what to do with it all.
Teaching a specific craft can help. Gather the students who want to make a craft and spend a few minutes showing them how to do it.
Some craft ideas to teach include:
You can help the kids with their crafts throughout recess, but you can also teach them how to do the craft and then step away. Once you've shown them how to do it, they can roll with it and get creative. Sometimes, you just need to spark their creativity, and the ideas start flowing!
#7 - Play a Quiet Game as a Class
Indoor recess is a balance between letting kids burn off energy and keeping them relatively calm and quiet because they are indoors. If things are getting a bit too rowdy, a quieter game might be needed.
Whether you're trying to settle kids down after lunch or you would like to bring down the volume before recess is over, playing a quiet game together as a class can get the job done.
A few quiet games you can play:
- Silent Ball involves kids silently tossing a ball around the room. Students are out if they don't remain silent or if they don't catch the ball. Younger kids can roll the ball instead, while older kids will have fun with variations, like clapping between tosses.
- Heads Up 7 Up has students put their heads down on their desks with their thumbs up in the air. A small group of students creeps around the room, each gently putting another student's thumb down. Then, those students have to guess who did it.
- Four Corners involves numbering each corner of the room. One student stands with their eyes closed, while all of the other students quietly pick a corner. The student picks a number, and everyone in that corner has to sit down. The game repeats until a single student is left.
Indoor recess isn't something you have to dread! With the ideas on this list, you can keep indoor recess fresh and fun without feeling like you're losing your sanity in the process.