20 Ideas for Socially Distanced Indoor Recess


It is those dreaded words, ‘indoor recess today’, that make all of us teachers cringe and roll our eyes right now. How are we going to plan for indoor fun during these days of COVID-19 when items can’t be shared and our students need to stay at their own desks? We all agree our students definitely need that social time as well as a learning break but figuring it all out seems like too much. Well, we have you covered! We have come up with these 20 Ideas for Socially Distanced Indoor Recess that will get you well on your way with your recess planning and won’t break your bank.

Many of these items can be pre-counted and sorted to fit in gallon-sized zip lock bags, or drawstring bags and individually stored for each kiddo. Say goodbye to your recess woes!

Item #1 ~ Drawstring Bag

You will need something for each student to keep their kit items in.  These drawstring bags are perfect!


#2 ~ Deck of Cards

Give each child a cheap deck of cards to keep in their bags. Then during your indoor recess, you can play games involving kids holding up the cards that they draw from the top of their card pile. For example, everyone with a number larger than 9, or everyone with an even number, or everyone with a card 5 and lower, stand up. Give those kids a point. Keep going with different call-outs. The kids will love it and won’t realize they practiced math!


#3 ~ Play-Doh

I am not a play-doh teacher. I don’t like the smell and I hate, hate, hate it getting on my class carpet BUT the kids love play-doh. So I save the play-doh for indoor recess only. This can be done as a free creative activity or have them create things you pick such as letters, numbers, snowmen, etc. Since they can then keep it in their own bags, no sharing of play-doh germs! Win-win!


Item #4 ~ Silly Putty

As much as I dislike play-doh, I love letting my kiddos play with putty. It works on their hand strength for writing and they love it. I usually buy larger tubs and then divide it amongst my kiddos. Some of their favorite activities are burying and then digging out ‘treasure’ like gemstones or pennies.


#5 ~ Wheel of Fortune

This is played similar to the TV show. I create spaces for each letter in each word for the sentence on my smartboard (a dry erase or chalkboard work just fine). The kids take turns calling out letters. If they pick a letter that is in the sentence, they get ten points for each time it appears. If they don’t pick a correct letter, it moves on to the next player. When a student guesses the sentence on their turn, they get to keep all their points. Then we start a new round with a new sentence.


#6 ~ Cosmic Yoga

If you have not checked out Cosmic Yoga on YouTube, you should! She takes the kids on kid-friendly adventures while having them move within their own space. I turn the lights down and join the kids in my own socially distanced space on the carpet. We have taken space adventures, Disney adventures, holiday adventures, etc. while doing yoga poses. The kids love that I participate and I love that it is a calm and quiet activity!


Item #7 ~ Hula Hoops

Visit your nearest Walmart or Dollar Tree and grab some hula hoops.  I am using them as “social distancing spaces”. Laying them around the classroom floor and having students sit in them while they do their indoor recess activities.


#8 ~ Paper Scraps Trash Ball

Kids love paper scraps. They love squishing it, folding it, and playing with it. For this game, I give students scrap paper to squish and squeeze into small ball shapes. I then walk around the classroom–staying socially distanced of course–with a tub or bucket. Each child takes turns shooting their paper balls into the tub–2 points for each basket. I make some of the shots pretty easy for them but then I will get silly and hold the tub on my head for their shot or have them shoot backward. I love the giggles this game brings out!


Item #9 ~ Building Blocks

I use the tiny wooden ‘ones’ blocks that come in my 1s, 10s, 100s set of blocks–each kid gets 10-12 for their bag.  During indoor recess, we use these mini blocks to race against time to build towers that remain standing; build bridges using our own creativity, and create shapes on our desks.


#10 ~ Go Noodle

If you have not heard of Go Noodle, have you really been living? The kids love the Indoor Recess activities that get them moving and grooving. Many of the videos can easily be done with each child in their own space.


#11 ~ 10 Pennies

I use 10-12 pennies to bury in putty or play-doh and to build towers and shapes on desks. The kids love playing with money and having their ‘own’ money to play with. We often do the pennies and mini-blocks at the same time!


#12 ~ Magnifying Glasses

Kiddos can explore the classroom and try to find things you have hidden (socially distanced of course).


Item #13 ~ Little Pet Friends

Sometimes kiddos just need a little buddy to have for some imaginative play.  They can play with their little pet friend, or read a book to them.


#14 ~ Paper Clips

Kids love paper clips; I have no idea why. I divide up a supply of small and large paper clips and the kiddos spend indoor recess hooking them all together into bracelets and necklaces. This is another activity that fits into their bag without a teacher having to disinfect after each use!


#15 ~ Geoboard and Rubber Bands

Each child gets a geoboard and several colored rubber bands, which a bagis  99 cents at Walmart. We spend part of recess creating teacher-directed shapes with the bands. The remainder of the recess is spent with kids demonstrating their creativity. With this activity, you do have to set rules up for use of the rubber bands because it will be tempting for a few of the class members to want to shoot them at their classmates.


#16 ~ Race Cars

Students can use their construction skills with the mini-blocks by building a track for their Pull Back Race Car to cruise on.  Great way to test cause and effect.


Item #17 ~ Dice Activities

Yes, another activity that needs some rules as many dice will be rolled so hard that they fly into others’ spaces BUT the kids can each have 2 dice in their bags. I then give them a copied sheet of a 120s chart and a crayon. They roll their dice and add them up to color that many squares in order. On the next turn, they are counting up from where they left off with the goal being the first to make it to 120 without going over.


#18 ~ Gyroscope Spinning Toys

My kiddos are entertained with these spinning toys for a long time.


#19 ~ Mini Coloring Books

For my artsy students and those who like to spend their recess doing quieter activities, I am including a mini coloring book.


#20 ~ Small Crayon Packs

Every student will get a small pack of crayons to use with their mini coloring book.

#21 ~ Dry Erase Boards and Markers

This one is fast and easy to explain. Kids can either free create or do directed draws on their board. I let them share–from their space of course– what they have drawn with their classmates.


#22 ~ Dominos

Dominos used to be fairly pricey but now you can garner a large supply from your local dollar store. The kids use them for creating mazes, building towers, making number matches, etc. I try to make sure that the kiddos have enough in their bag to build and create.

By no means do you need to grab one of everything on this list for your Recess Kits.  We just wanted to give you a list of Ideas for Socially Distanced Indoor Recess.  If you have any other items that you think would be great to add to this list, please put a screenshot in the comments below.

Here are also a few group games that I like to play with my students when we have to do indoor recess.

  • Would You Rather?:  We all know this game as it has been a staple for our online learning. The kids never seem to get enough of it–it is the game that doesn’t go away! I usually start with a would you rather school question such as would you rather do math all day or never have to do reading again. After a round of responses, I pick kids to ask the next questions. 
  • Categories:  It has been a long time but I definitely remember playing this game while jumping rope as a kid. Pick a category such as fruit and each child takes a turn blurting out a fruit name. When it comes to a child that can’t come up with an answer, no problem. We just switch to a new category and start up again with the next child. To make it trickier, you can have your class do categories alphabetically. Fruit with an ‘A’: Apple; ‘B’: Banana; ‘C’: Cherry and so on.
  • Headbands–what am I?: My kids love guessing games and they especially love it when I do the guessing! I take a stack of pictures and put them upside down on my desk. One at a time, I hold a picture up to my forehead where the students can see it but not me. The kids shout out clues and I try to guess what I am holding on my forehead. After I have taken several turns, I pick a student to hold up a card to their forehead. Game proceeds.

Providing our students with alternatives to playground equipment during recess will allow them to still have fun and get their wiggles out!  And it also gives us a minute to not be the main source of entertainment. 😉

Written by: Suzanne Kelley

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