best indoor recess ideas

Best Indoor Recess Ideas: Unique Classroom Ideas

best indoor recess ideas

What do you do when the weather has been dreary and cold for a while now and the kids (and you) are bored to tears during recess?  They have played all of the board games in the classroom.  They have hung out and talked until there is nothing left to talk about.  And they are bored with anything else you suggest for them.

Plus you have looked online and all of the lists on google have the same balloon games and GoNoodle suggestions. So how do you find the BEST indoor recess ideas to keep your students happy and entertained when the weather and time of year is not cooperating?

I know there are lots of lists out there that give you suggestions.  But this list is not going to have all the same ideas that you are seeing in a few articles.  Just about every idea here is not from another list, but from the mouths of kids who came up with the ideas based on their favorite classroom activities from other times.

So what are the best indoor recess ideas that you have not seen yet?  Here is a list of 22 things that I came up with based on what we have done in our classroom in the past.  And yes, they are all student-approved activities.

22 Best Indoor Recess Ideas

  1. Mini escape room
  2. Mini murder mystery
  3. Ninja
  4. Mini dance party
  5. Tasting party
  6. Sardines
  7. Scavenger hunt
  8. Treasure Hunt
  9. Ladder Golf
  10. Impromptu stand-up comedy
  11. Craft box(es)
  12. Ping pong tournament
  13. Blind man's Bluff
  14. Family Feud:  Student Edition
  15. Jeopardy
  16. Drama (act out a recent book or show they enjoyed)
  17. Play a round of Knockout Basketball (if the gym is available)
  18. Mini Talent Show
  19. Magic Show
  20. Bingo with prizes
  21. Play Bob Ross
  22. Make class videos

I could have come up with more, but for the sake of keeping this article from getting too long, this will do for now.  Maybe I will make a part 2 companion article sometime.

Also, while most of these classrooms adjust well to whole-class participation, regardless of the class size, because it is recess, don't feel like the whole class is obligated to participate.  If some kids want to do other activities, that is fine.

Generally speaking, you should have plenty of kids that want to be involved anyway.  No need to force it.  And if a large number of kids don't want to do the suggested activity, you may want to find another one or let them choose from a list anyway.  Then your activity will be bomb-proof.

But for now, here are the details of this list:

1.  Mini Escape Room

This is one of the best indoor recess ideas ever because it is such a popular activity right now in social circles.  So why not jump in and include it in your classroom?  There are tons of escape room instructions on Pinterest.  Many of them give you instructions on how to make your own.  That is teacher gold.  Once you follow the pattern and do one, it will be easy to plan several more.

Do this on a weekend and then keep them in class to pull out whenever you want a quick change of pace activity.  This will be perfect!

You can also buy these ready made in stores or on Amazon (here is one), but if you don't have the extra cash, then making one works very well too.

Note: 

If you use any of the Exit the Game sets, it says 1-4 players, but can easily be expanded for whoever wants to play.  You just need to make sure everyone gets a chance to see the materials.  And speaking of the materials, they are one-time use, but still a great deal for the price.

Our family has loved doing the Exit the Game sets, including my 8 year old son, who was easily able to participate.  Just make sure when picking yours that you stick closer to the lower level difficulty on the lower left hand corner of the box.  Your middle school students will love it.

And when you all do get stuck, you can still get the solution to the difficult puzzle without spoiling the whole game.  It works really well.

2.  Mini Murder Mystery

The instructions for this could probably be cut and pasted from idea #1 above.  You can find infinite ideas on pinterest regarding this.  And once you have followed someone else's pattern, it will be easy for you to branch out on your own.

You won't have as much luck finding these ready made, since most of them involve dinner parties and complex themes that take more time than your recess will allow.

Making a mini mystery based on a Pinterest search will work perfectly though.

Also, you can find (or make up) mysteries that don't involve murder if you need to be cautious about sensitivities.

3.  Ninja

This is one of the best indoor recess ideas because there is literally no prep for it, except maybe to move some desks to make some space in the classroom.

Everybody stands in a circle with arms spread out to make enough room for themselves.  Then everybody takes one giant step back.  Now they shouldn't be able to reach anybody.

Starting with the first player (however you want to determine that), the designated first player makes one move towards another player.  If they touch that player, then the touched player is out.  The moving player can move any body part or combination of body parts.  Usually a large step in whatever direction they want to go as well as reaching an arm out towards the intended target.

Once they have made their move, they must now stand in that position until it is their turn again.  To keep the game from getting too tedious, you may want to do two teams of around 10 each.  You can have concurrent games going if you have an assistant or parent.  Or you can just have the non-participating team watch until it is their turn.  They will love to watch anyway, so it is fine.

Of course, the last player left wins.

If you do two teams, you could always have the two final players head off against each other in a sudden death match.

4.  Mini Dance Party

This is one of the best indoor recess ideas because you are helping the students to expel their extra energy.  So maybe they will sit better in class--one can always hope, huh?

If you have a little disco ball or two and can shut the shades, then you are golden.  You can get disco balls for super inexpensive at 5 Below and sometimes even your local dollar store.

Just put together a great dance playlist, and you have a super easy indoor recess idea that the kids will love whether they are dancing or watching the others dance.

It also allows for kids who just want to hang out and chill.

5.  Tasting Party

This one takes some planning on your part and maybe even a trip to the market on your way to school.

But the extra effort is well worth it and all of your students will think this is the best indoor recess idea ever.  Because what middle schooler doesn't love food?

One step further to make it even more awesome would be to theme it with something else that you are working on academically.  Whether it is special food from another country or time period that you are studying, or maybe something from a book you are reading.

Also, if you can include some variety (salty, sweet, tangy, bland, savory), that makes it even more fun.

You can take a survey or vote to find out which were the favorites.  Letting the kids record the results on the board is even more fun.

6.  Sardines

Sardines is so simple to do, but for whatever reason, my students just never got sick of it and it was always at the top of their activity requests.

You choose one student to hide in a designated location.  Make sure that you know where that is.  You can either pair off students so they are not alone or if you have an assistant teacher that can hover nearby the hiding spot without giving it away, that works too.

The hiding spot needs to be big enough for all of the kids to hide there once they find the original hider.

This game worked the best for my night-time kids club classes.  But it is still fun to play in the daytime if you have a location that has plenty of large hiding spots that are not giveaways when the sun is shining.

7.  Scavenger Hunt

This one take a little bit of teacher prep ahead of time, but it is well worth it, especially if some of the things they are scavenging for are things they can keep (stickers, erasers, pencils, etc).  You only need maybe 5-8 things they need to search for.  And maybe the last item is the item they get to keep.

You can do this in your classroom, the gym if available, or maybe even the school library with the stipulation that they have to play "Silent Scavenger Hunt" and they can't run around.  They must be totally inconspicuous.  They won't be, but they will have fun trying.  This will work if there is not any significant activity going on in the library at the moment.

8.  Treasure Hunt

This is a lot like the Scavenger Hunt except for they are looking for the treasure chest at the end of all of the clues.

Once again, you will need to prep for this one in advance, but your students will love you when they see that you went the extra mile to help them have a good time at recess.

You only need to make about 5 or 6 clues that will lead them to the treasure.  And you would make it the best indoor recess idea if you put actual treasure in that they could have at the end.  Maybe some lollipops or some simple thing.

It would also be huge fun if you led them away from the classroom and then back in for the actual location of the treasure.  They will have so much fun thinking you are leading them on a wild goose chase.

9.  Ladder Golf

This is one of my few ideas that the kids would need to take turns on and you would need to have the materials or store-bought set already.  If you had a mini tournament the kids would have a great time.  Smaller class sizes may work better for this, or maybe have two things going on this list so you can split them up and keep enough of them active at one time.

If you don't already have a ladder golf set, they aren't too expensive.  You can find one here with this Amazon link.

10.  Impromptu Stand-up Comedy

You will for sure know by the end of the first week of school who the comedians in your class are.  This is a great way for them to exercise their talent in a comfortable way.  And it is a great way for other classmates to see and appreciate their individual creativity.

Just make sure that class rules are in place that encourage kindness and not course or inappropriate humor.

You could even have some props for them to use while "up to the mic."

11.  Craft Box(es)

This could just be as simple as having a few boxes with craft themed items that your more crafty-creative students can just have at and do their thing.

You could have random craft supplies with glue in a box, crafting papers with origami instructions, or literally any kind of crafting supplies.  Or you can hit up your local craft store and get some of whatever is on sale that week.  You can also find a ton of craft items at your local dollar store.

It does take some prep up front, or maybe even before school starts in the fall when you are preparing your classroom.  You will also have to replenish and reorganize, maybe at Christmas break and Spring break.

It's really not time intensive but will allow for lots of  hours of creative fun for the kids who love that sort of thing.

12.  Ping Pong Tournament

If your school has a ping pong tournament, then this is so much fun.  Having the class gather around to watch the tournament gives it a sporting event feel.  However many kids want to participate can.  Just adjust the winning score amount to the amount of time you have based on how many participants.  Have a small prize for the tournament winner, or maybe the top three.  It could just be medals that you place around their neck in an olympic-esque ceremony at the end.  The kids will have a blast with that, especially if you have the National Anthem playing.  Yep, it's cheesy, but it's middle school and we're having fun on a dreary day!

And it's one of the best indoor recess ideas because it will keep the majority of your class occupied all at the same time with little effort on your part.

13.  Blind Man's Bluff

This was the second place most requested idea by my students, which is why it made my list of the best indoor recess ideas.  You do have to supervise this one closely so nobody get hurt.

Have a couple of blindfolds ready for the kids that will be "it."  I think I actually had 3 or 4.  That way you can cycle through the number of kids who want to be "it" much faster.

The rest of the kids will silently find a hiding spot in the classroom once the blindfolds are in place.

Make sure that the rules of where they can hide are well spelled out before you begin so that there is no hiding place that is too dangerous and nobody can cry foul if the hiding spots were too hard.

And if it takes too long to find any students, we would have them make a sound, like a bird chirping or cat meowing.  Really, any soft sound.

14.  Family Feud:  Student Edition

This is one of the best indoor recess ideas because most of your students will have seen the game on tv and love it.

You can actually buy a copy of a Family Feud board game.  Then you can place the "game board" info on the board so everybody can see it.

Here is a game you can buy on Amazon.  It even comes with the buzzer!

Buying the game will allow you to never have to come up with a bunch of questions.  So it will save time and will allow you to use it for years to come, which is worth more than the price of the game.

But if for whatever reason you end up making your own copy of the game questions, you can find a single game of Family Feud on this webpage.

It also has the instructions as well as several variations to play.

15. Jeopardy

This is kind of a repeat of why it is one of the best indoor recess ideas from number 14 because it is also a game show that the vast majority of your students will be familiar with and most likely love to reproduce in class.

It is pretty time intensive to prepare if you have to come up with all of the questions, answers and rounds by yourself.

This game is also available on Amazon if you click here.

And since this is for recess, it is fine to use the premade set.  This particular one comes with two different sets that guarantee endless play.  That is way more than you will ever need, so no worries about running out.

On the flip side, if you were to come up with the questions and components of the game using items that you had studied or read about in class, your kids will think you are amazing for being such a good theme artist.   They will love the connections to something in their life.  And you will be reinforcing things for them that will help them to perform academically.  Everybody wins!

16.  Drama

Just like you knew who the comedians are in your class, you also know who the drama queens (or kings) are.  And since you may be dealing with that already, you may as well help them to channel it into a more productive activity.

You can have suggestions of things for them to act out.  Or you can have them act out a scene from a recent book you were reading in class.

Better yet, you can have them act out something they learned in history or a process they learned about in science.

Or they could even act out the work that an inventor or some other person your were discussing their life's work with the class.

There are endless options here.  And it is pretty spontaneous.  Unless you would like to add some props to the drama.  And while you are at it, you may as well add a photo booth for a bulletin board after.  The kids will love the memories of the fun they had that day.

17.  Play a Round or Two of Knockout Basketball

This is one of the best indoor recess activities because you don't have to do anything to prepare.  You just have to walk your students over to the gym.

The only issue is making sure the gym is available to you during your recess time.

You put the kids in a line in front of the hoop with the first two kids each holding a basketball.

The first one in line shoots first.  If they get the basket, they pass the ball to the third person in line and go to the back of the line.

But if they miss it, they keep trying but so does the second person.  If the first person gets the basket before the second person, then he/she passes the ball to the next person in line and goes to the back of the line.  The third person then tries to beat the second person.

If the second person gets the basket before the first person, then the first person is out and the second person passes the ball to the next person in line.

This keeps on going until there is only one person left.

18.  Mini Talent Show

This is a pretty easy impromptu activity to do.  You can tell the students what you are planning to do and you should have no shortage of volunteers who want to show off their talent.

This is even better if you are able to use the stage in your school auditorium.

There really is no need for prizes or to pick a best act in this case.  They are generally really hard to judge.  So maybe just showcasing the talent and acknowledging it would be good enough for that recess.

19  Magic Show

Two of my kids used to come up with the craziest magic tricks, usually with cards.  While this one takes a bit of research and practice, you can wow your students with your tricks and they will have no idea how you did it.

I was never much of a fan of magic, but seeing those tricks was actually so much fun.

Just check out card tricks on Youtube.  The tutorials are awesome.

And more likely than not, the kids will keep asking you to do it while they try to figure it out.

20.  Bingo With Prizes

This is one of the best indoor recess ideas because the prep is so minimal.  And you can include a treat with it!

You can google bingo cards and print up as many as you need on either card stock or regular paper.

Then if you use M&M's or Skittles or any small candy, you have the play pieces for the kids to use.  Just put a good amount in paper cups for each student.

You can play several variations. Some examples are to do the standard line in any direction, an x, a t, or even the whole board.

You can also theme this to whatever you are learning in class that you would like to reinforce.  The kids won't feel like you are making it academic because it is still a game.

And they get to eat the pieces when they are done!

21.  Play Bob Ross

This one is so fun.  If you can find an afro wig, it's even better.  There's always this one on Amazon.

You can find all kinds of painting ideas that are a perfect level for middle school kids.  Here is a link to my Pinterest Board for painting ideas.

This take a bit of prep to have the paints/canvas sheets ready.  But the value of what they end up with is something that they will have for a long time to come.  And their parents will absolutely love seeing the artwork they bring home!

22.  Make Class Videos

This is the best indoor recess idea for middle school because they are already so used to taking their phones out and recording anything and everything.  So they will find this fun and entertaining and easy to do.

You can assign them silly or fun things to do.  Or they can do silly interviews.  Or you can have them tell you what they want to do.  As long as it's not inappropriate it is perfect!

The idea here is to relax and have fun because it is break time.

How to Be Prepared Ahead of Time

So while more than half of these ideas did not have any significant prep time, I realize that somem of them do.  And I realize that teachers don't have a lot of spare time.

So what I have done in the past is to make a list of what I wanted to have ready to go when I needed it.  Then I made a list of all of the materials I would need to prepare those things.  I was able to do that in about a half hour on a weeknight.

Then on the next available day (usually Saturday), I was able to go to the store or online to get what I needed.  Whatever I had I would organize and assemble so it would be ready when I needed it.  Then as the other items that I mail ordered came in, those I would organize and prepare as they came in.  Within a couple of weeks time, I had a whole year's worth of activities ready to go.  And once I had done that, there was no prep for following years.  Just some cleanup and reorganization.

Conclusion

So this is my list of 22 of the best indoor recess ideas that you can do with your middle school students.  Actually you can do many of them with your elementary school or even high school students.  Homeschool families can do these.  And families at home looking for something to do can do them!  There is something for everyone here.

But back to recess.

There is literally a ton of things you could do with this time.  Your biggest hindrances will be time and resources.  The vast majority of ideas here should fit within those parameters, though.

And many times you will overhear students talking about a favorite activity they did at a party, family or church event that you can always add to the list and "save for a rainy day."

Have fun!

Related Article:

If you liked the ideas here and would like to read about other ways to make the classroom more functional and academic for your students at the same time, click the article below.

Helpful Examples of Differentiated Instruction--Complete Literature

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Comments 64

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      Thank you. 🙂 I had some truly inspirational teachers growing up. And combining that with years of working with kids has helped.

  1. Awesome list here. Actually i am a teacher and these Recess ideas will certainly help me engage my students in a fun way. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. These seem like a lot of fun! I love that there are so many fun indoor recess ideas. I think my kids really would love some of these, especially on rainy days.

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  3. These are excellent ideas! I especially love the idea of an escape room as it gives them various puzzles to figure out, which can ultimately give them a much needed esteem boost. During our rainy recesses (which were quite often), we were just left to sit in the classroom and read, chat or do what ever we wanted. There was no structure from what I can recall.

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      There was never much structure for my indoor recesses growing up. But I figure if I have to hang out with the kids anyway, we could be doing something fun and enjoyable for all of us. 🙂

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      Thank you, Milica. I hope that your child’s teachers find some inspiration and are willing to change things up at some point. They would find it more enjoyable for themselves as well as their students!

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  4. Treasure Hunt. Always. I will always opt for it😋 I always look for the treasure hunt movies. Be it Indiana Jones or Tad Jones. And if it is happening in the real world, I would jump in myself. Some of these activities you mentioned, are open for adults too. Till date, when my university organises treasure hunts during fests, I don’t step back😜

  5. My All time favorite, scavenger hunt! It is always fun teaching kids through fun and games, and one of the good and most fab ways of supporting your child develop some much-needed life skills such as problem-solving, reading, building teamwork, and getting some good activities for both the mind and body is through a scavenger hunt – It builds leadership and curiosity.

  6. Wow such great ideas exclamation I love the idea of the blind taste testing. I think I’m actually going to use some of these ideas for my kids at home. Thanks!

  7. This post certainly reminded me of my childhood! I was a nerdy kid and I remember my mom calling home my friends and arranging scavenger hunts at home!

  8. Never heard of some of these ideas! Really cool articles, going to come in handy. Thanks for putting this together.

  9. I’ve never thought about indoor recess before. I like it, though. When the weather gets cold, nobody wants to be outside, but it gets boring inside when you’re a kid.

  10. Wow! I think you have mentioned some great ideas for a rainy day. Not only can these ideas offer a challenge to students but it can also help facilitate in developing stronger bonds.

  11. Wow! You really have some broad list in here to get classroom more lively and enjoyable on recess time. Teachers should definitely do some of this, this is definitely cool for the class.

  12. Every time I read your articles, you always bring up new ideas for middle-class students. It is very pleasant to read. The ideas you wrote in this article are very brilliant and can also be practiced at home for children.

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      Thank you, Yudith. And yes, many of these ideas are perfect to do at home with your children. I have done (and continue to do) many of them with my own kids.

  13. Kids need a break in the lesson even at home. You mentioned these awesome ideas, and I reckon you are a wonderful teacher.

  14. Wow, kids are back to school? I like how the pandemic has forced us to be more creative in our daily way of life. Will definitely recommend this article to my teacher friends! Thanks for always providing insightful posts, Marie!

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