Indoor Recess Ideas for Elementary Teachers: Balancing Fun and Learning

The snow is falling; it’s raining outside; the temperatures are plummeting below zero and you hear those dreaded words, “indoor recess.” How are you going to keep young minds engaged and bodies active all while staying inside your classroom? Indoor recess doesn’t have to just be a backup plan; it can be an opportunity to foster creativity, collaboration, and continuous learning in a different setting. How do you do it? Let’s jump into indoor recess ideas and strategies that will make it a time of joy and learning. 

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Establish Indoor Recess Expectations 

Before you have to have an indoor-recess, make sure you establish expectations for indoor recess. You want to talk about what noise level is acceptable, where students can go, and what materials are available to students during indoor play time. 

Be Prepared with Low Prep Activities 

No one likes keeping students inside when they are used to being outside running and getting out some of that extra energy. However, because the weather can be so unpredictable, being prepared is key to a successful indoor recess, start by having a list of activities ready. One activity you can always have on hand in sour Review in a Snap Monthly No Prep Printables. These offer a range of seasonally-themed worksheets that are perfect for last-minute indoor recess days because they keep students engaged without a lot of preparation time. 


Get Creative with Space for Indoor Recess 

Sometimes getting out of your classroom is ideal even if you have indoor recess. If you have alternative spaces available to you like the gym, cafeteria, or hallways for indoor recess, use them! This indoor recess idea not only gives you more room for activities but also gives students a different view. To make this possible, communicate with other classroom teachers and try to set up a rotation between different spaces to keep indoor recess dynamic and engaging. 

Incorporate Physical Activity 

Recess is a time to get rid of excess energy. So, getting physical activity in is key! You can do that by doing some yoga, “Go Noodle” brain breaks, and silent ball games. These are all stinkin’ simple and perfect for keeping students active. Using indoor recess ideas like dancing or Simon Says can be adapted to an indoor setting. This ensures students get their energy out in a controlled manner. 


Grow Creativity with Indoor Recess ideas 

When you are “stuck” inside, you can use it as an opportunity to give students a chance to express their creativity. Getting out activities like Play-Doh, origami, and direct drawing are not only fun, but great for developing fine motor skills. 

You can also spark creativity in a more academic way with these indoor recess ideas. You can bring out LEGOs, K’NEX, or simple materials like straws, marshmallows, and popsicle sticks to encourage problem solving. This type of activity sparks creativity for our future engineers and architects. 

Bringing Down the Volume 

Sometimes during indoor recess we don’t have the option to  go somewhere else and be loud and crazy. When a quieter approach is needed, you can always have students read, do puzzles, or engage in individual projects. This gives students time to wind down and focus or just relax. Using these indoor recess ideas are great after a morning of difficult concepts because it will help students recharge for the afternoon. 


Utilize Technology for Indoor Recess

Technology is a great friend during indoor recess; however, we don’t want to use it as a babysitter. Educational games, virtual field trips, and online puzzles are great ways to entertain and to educate. While we don’t want to give students free-reign over the internet, we can use it within reason. Having  balance is key; just ensure screen time is purposeful and complements other non-digital activities. 

Gamify Indoor Recess 

Indoor recess doesn’t have to be a break from learning. You can always use math, language arts, and science games that are fun and engaging. This helps reinforce classroom learning in a way that is relaxed and just a good time! Don’t stress about students doing what they would do in centers all the time or in class. Instead, let them explore the game and just have a good time. 

These games are always great for enhancing social skills because it requires teamwork, communication, and sharing. These are all excellent for creating a sense of community and cooperation among students. If you don’t want to use academic games, you can always use board games or group challenges to work on the same skills. 


Indoor recess can be more than just something you have to deal with because of bad weather. With the right activities and mindset, you can have valuable learning experiences that are related to your class or just an added bonus. Using low to no-prep activities like Review in a Snap for first, second, and third grade, board games, center games, and more, you can rock indoor recess like the awesome educator I know you are! 

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