Indoor Recess Activities Your Students Will LOVE!

Two little words that teachers everywhere dread: indoor recess

Did you get chills just reading that? Totally understandable, it’s no one’s favorite thing! Indoor recess means that you have to forgo a bathroom break, the chance to make those last-minute copies, and/or a few quiet moments to mentally recharge.

It also means that students miss out on fresh air, a change of scenery, and the all-important chance to run around and use up some of their energy. 

If this feels like a lose-lose situation to you, I absolutely get it! 

The good news is depending on what you decide to do during that indoor recess,  it doesn’t have to be the stuff of nightmares. Like with so many things, you have the power to change the way you think about indoor recess and maybe even… turn it into a positive? 

While nothing can fully replace that outside recess experience, there are tons of awesome indoor recess activities that will allow everyone to have a great time, and can even strengthen the sense of community in your classroom.

So, are you wondering what these indoor recess activities are that will make it fun? Check out the list below!

8 Indoor Recess Activities

Indoor recess activities that your students will LOVE!

Dance Party 

It doesn’t get any more fun than a dance party! Your students will enjoy moving their bodies, and seeing you join in with some silly dance moves of your own will only add to the fun. Freeze dance is always a favorite- there are tons of cute videos on youtube, or you can use any music on your computer or phone. GoNoodle is another AWESOME resource. Your class is sure to love their silly songs and guided dances.

Tower Challenges

If you are looking for an activity that is a little calmer, try a tower challenge! You can use cups, cards, toothpicks and clay, really anything you want to use. You could even make it a contest and see who can create the tallest, strongest, or most unique tower. 

Create Art 

This is another anything goes choice. Whatever art supplies that you have in the classroom will be perfect! Some ideas are watercolor, Play-doh, weaving, and directed drawing. You will be amazed at what your students can create.

Board Games

 I LOVE the chance to play some board games with my students! It’s so nice to be able to step out of the “leader” role and just join in the fun. An added bonus is that I always have the best conversations with kiddos while playing board games.


 This is a great one for those days that you know kids need to move! A broom or mop handle works great as a limbo stick. Just pop on some upbeat music, and you’re ready to go! The competition aspect of this will really appeal to some of your students.

Free Build

Let students use Legos, blocks, K’nex, recycled materials, or any other building supplies. It’s a great way to maintain some kind of structure (no pun intended!), while also giving students the chance to get creative.

Class Games 

If the day has been crazy bananas and you just don’t know if you can handle ONE MORE loud, crazy moment, this is a perfect choice! Having the whole class play something together, like Heads-Up 7-Up, Silent Ball, Ghosts in the Graveyard, Four Corners, or Simon Says will keep the chaos to a minimum. (And for what it’s worth, I’ve NEVER encountered a group of elementary kids who weren’t dying to play Heads-Up, 7-Up!)


Similar to board games, puzzles are a nice, calm choice. Puzzles are engaging, and also allow students to let their minds wander and rest up from a long day of learning. I always keep a nice stash of puzzles in my cupboard. You can find them for cheap at thrift stores or garage sales, or you could even for gently used donations. 

*Bonus Tip*

No matter which activity you choose, it’s super important to implement some indoor recess rules. 

For kids, the word recess brings to mind the chance to run, yell, jump, throw, kick, sing at the top of their lungs, and any number of other things that you don’t want them doing in the classroom!

It’s important to be clear that indoor recess doesn’t just mean “do the same thing as outside, but inside.” Depending on how common indoor recess is at your school, you may even want to create an anchor chart that you can quickly review when needed.


The great thing about having all of these options is that YOU are in control.

If you think your students just need a break, choose something with less structure that will give their brains a break.  If movement is the highest priority, choose something that will get them up and out of their seats. Or maybe you just really need a calm, chill activity for the kids to do so that you can have a quiet moment.

Another option is to offer a few different activities and let students choose what sounds most appealing to them at that moment.

I hope this has given you a few extra ideas that make indoor recess a little bit better!

I’m not going to go off the deep end and claim to prefer indoor recess (does ANYONE?!), but I have found that having an awesome list of fun go-to activities makes a huge difference!

So, the next time you hear the dreaded words… take a deep breath, put on a smile, and use one of these awesome activities to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone!

More Resources

Looking for even more ideas for fun activities? Check these out!

Brain Breaks:

Brain breaks are perfect for indoor recess  (and for any time!) since they provide a perfect way for students to get their wiggles out. This set includes over 250 active games, exercises, and creative movements that will help your kids calm their bodies, refresh their minds and get ready to focus.

Brain Breaks for Better Learning in print and digital

Brain Teasers:

These super-engaging brain teasers get your students to use their critical thinking skills while having fun at the same time. This set includes 40 pages of brain teasers, with more than 400 higher-level thinking activities. You don’t even have to make copies, just project the questions and have students follow along with a whiteboard or piece of paper.

Brain Teasers for 3rd - 5th Grades

Here are a few other blog posts you might enjoy:

Using Brain Breaks In the Classroom

1 Super Simple Way to Add More Critical Thinking & Problem Solving into the School Day

Top 10 Five Minute Activities for the Classroom


Thanks for stopping by!

The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers


You might also like...

The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers

Hi, I’m Jenn, CEO and owner of The Teacher Next Door!

I know that you strive to be an effective upper elementary teacher while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

In order to do that, you need resources that are impactful,
yet simple.

The problem is that most resources and curriculums out there are far from simple. The pages upon pages of daily lesson plans are just plain overwhelming.

At TTND, we believe teachers should be living their lives outside of the classroom, and not spend hours lesson planning and searching for resources.

We understand that now, more than ever, teachers need space to be themselves which is why we create and support teachers with timesaving tips and standards-aligned resources.

Want access to TTND's Free Resource Library? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll email you the exclusive password!





* Please note: If your school has strong email filters, you may wish to use your personal email to ensure access.

Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner