Indoor Recess Ideas for Social Distancing
Finding fun and safe things for students to do during indoor recess has always been a challenge. Then, 2020 took it to a whole new level. What happens when you mix indoor recess, restless kids, AND social distancing rules? Well, it’s called a potential classroom nightmare. Toys and materials can’t be shared, and our students are spending more time than they ever have before in their desks. This can make it difficult for teachers to find ways for students to have safe, indoor fun. Thankfully, I’ve rounded up 25 engaging activities and games that students can play in the classroom. More importantly, students can maintain a safe social distance from one another while they play. I’ve broken up this list into three main categories: creative indoor fun, reusable binder games, and active indoor fun. All of the activities can easily be used for morning tubs, too! Are you ready? Let’s go!
The following blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. This just means my blog receives a small compensation if you purchase using these links, but don’t worry- there is absolutely no extra cost to you! I hope you find the links helpful and convenient!
Creative Indoor Fun
The following creativity ideas are perfect for social distancing. Students can play at their own work stations at a safe distance from other peers. You can encourage socialization by allowing students to chat with one another while they play. For this section, I chose materials that are easy to buy in “bulk”, easy to clean-up, and easy to store in individual baggies.
Providing pipe cleaners in individual plastic bags makes a great indoor recess activity! Students can use their pipe cleaners to build lots of creative “sculptures” such as castles, pets, animals, flowers, and more! They’re cheap, reusable, and they’re a medium that many children do not get to use that often!
2. Play Foam
This party pack of Play Foam is a fun sensory alternative to playdough! As long as students seal up their plastic baggie after using it, it will stay fresh for quite a while. Students can socially distance themselves from one another while they build, create, sculpt, and chat! You can also use this to have young students make shapes, numbers, and letters.
Before social distancing was even a “thing”, I let my first graders keep a little tub of playdough inside their desks. This was an easy and independent activity that they could do when they finished something early. It also helps students who are fidgety! This party pack of play-doh on Amazon is a great price, and the tubs can be labeled with your students’ names for easy management.
4. Paint Color Swatches
Paint color swatches are FREE at your local hardware store, and most hardware stores are more than happy to provide them to you when you explain that you are using them for a classroom project. Provide each student with a baggie of color swatches for indoor play time. Students can use the swatches to build houses, sculptures, buildings, etc. You can even teach them how to cut small slits into the swatches (if you want) so that the pieces can fit together. This is a fun STEM activity and it’s also perfect for morning tubs!
Rainbow Scratch Paper isn’t reusable, but it sure does make for a FUN indoor activity on a rainy day! There are a lot of different brands and packs of scratch paper out there, but I like this pack of rainbow scratch paper the best because of its size. The pages are 8×10, which means I can cut them in half and double my usage. I teach my students to draw and write really small on the paper so that they can get as much out of it as possible. Some of my students even like to cut their page in half again so that they can draw two pictures. Provide each student with a toothpick for their drawing tool. That’s it!
6. Small Paper Cups
Give each student a small stack of cups and allow them to build! This is another great STEM material. The cups can be reusable by having each child place their cups into a “quarantine box”. Let the cups sit for a week. Then they can be passed out again.
Indoor Recess Binders Games
Indoor recess can get loud, messy, and chaotic…IF we don’t prepare for it. Unfortunately, due to social distancing regulations, it’s harder than usual to prepare for indoor play. I am all about EASY and NO PREP when it comes to “extra” activities. I created an Indoor Recess Games for Social Distancing pack. It’s a collection of 12 independent and partner games that I’ve specifically designed for social distancing! If you just fell out of your seat because you got so excited, take a minute to pick yourself up and keep reading! It gets better!
The games are printed on cardstock and placed into sheet protectors. You can choose to pass out the games separately, or put them all into a folder or a binder for each student. Students will NOT need to share materials to play these games. They can be played six feet away from each other and are played with a dry-erase marker. This means most of the games are reusable. Cue the celebration music! Students can keep their folder or binder in their desk or storage area and take them out to play when they are allowed to. Below is a list of all twelve games included in the binder. Let’s take a look!
7. Squiggle Challenge
Squiggle Challenge is a fun independent game that only requires a sheet protector, a dry-erase marker, and the Squiggle Challenge game template. To play, the student will place his or her marker on the dot in the middle of the paper. Then, the student will close his or her eyes and make a “squiggle” line with the marker. No peeking! When the squiggle line has been drawn, the student can open his or her eyes. Then, the student must turn the squiggle into a picture! This art game is super fun and sparks lots of creativity! You can find the Squiggle Challenge in my Indoor Recess Games for Social Distancing pack in my TpT store by clicking HERE.
8. Make a Board Game
What’s more fun than playing a game? MAKING a game, of course! Ignite student creativity and critical thinking skills by inviting them to create their very own board games. They only need their paper and crayons! If you want to make this a little more child-friendly for your students, you can use my Board Game template from my Indoor Games for Social Distancing pack. Students can then take their board games home and play with their families.
9. Make a Puzzle
Turn “draw a picture” into an even better activity by letting students make their own PUZZLES! This is a really fun independent activity that also turns into a game. Invite students to draw and color a full-page picture on the Make a Puzzle template. Then students can cut out their puzzle pieces, mix them up, and try to put their puzzle back together! If you want to take this activity a step further, give students individual plastic baggies for their pieces. The baggies can sit in “quarantine” for a few days before being swapped with a friend. Students can also take their puzzles home to share with their families. This is a PERFECT indoor recess activity for a rainy or cold day!
10. Draw and Guess
Draw and Guess is a partner game that can be played from a distance. Students will take turns drawing a picture on their boards and giving clues to their partner about what he or she drew. The player who is “guessing” will try to copy the picture on his or her own board using the clues provided. The more detail provided, the better! This game encourages oral language skills, descriptive language, inference skills, and creativity!
11. Spin and Draw
This creative, independent art game will be a hit with your students! Using a paperclip and a pencil, students can spin both spinners. The student must then draw a picture that includes both the setting and the character. These pictures are fun because they can get so silly! Examples might include a dinosaur in a school or a unicorn on the beach! You can also use this independent game as creative writing prompts.
12. Word Hero
Write a long word on the board in front of your classroom. Students will turn to the Word Hero page in their Indoor Recess Binders. Then, using their dry erase markers, invite the students to create as many words as they can using the letters in the word you wrote. Students will love playing this independent game and can even work together as a classroom from the safety of their own work spaces. One management idea is to have a “word of the week” that is written in the corner of your whiteboard. If indoor recess or indoor choice time occurs, students will use it to play Word Hero.
13. Make a Memory Game
Every student loves playing Memory, so why not add ownership to the game by allowing them to create their own version? Students can use the Make a Memory Game template and draw matching pictures in the squares. Then, they will cut out the squares, mix them up, and play their own games! The games can be swapped with a friend after they have sat in “quarantine”. Another option is to simply let students take their games home with them to share with a family member.
14. Character Clues
Character Clues is a socially distanced partner game that is similar to Guess Who? Students can play the game with a partner from the safety of their own seats. Each student will only write on his or her own game template. Each student will choose a secret character. Then, players will take turns guessing the other player’s secret character by asking yes or no questions. For example, “Is your character holding something in its hands?” If the answer is no, the player will cross off any character on the board who IS holding something in its hands. The game continues until the first player has successfully identified the other player’s secret character. Students can then erase their boards and play again!
15. Tricky Triangle Game
This game will be a classroom favorite! Remember the old-fashioned wooden triangle games? This is a printable version! Your students will challenge themselves to beat their own scores by jumping over counters, cubes, or cheerios and eliminating as many game pieces as possible. Directions for this game and EVERY game are included in the binder. This game boosts critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills. (I love this game so much that I even have a dedicated blog post about it that you can read here.)
16. Number Squeeze
Number Squeeze is a partner game that I’ve designed to be played socially distanced! Students will only write on their own boards during the game. They will take turns choosing and guessing a secret number from 0 to 20. The student who is guessing the secret number will continue to cross off numbers until they have eliminated all but the secret number. This is a great game for encouraging students to use the terms “greater than” and “less than” when they are playing. They will love being able to play a game with a partner – even if they are six feet apart!
Snowman is played like the old-fashioned game, Hangman. Students will guess the secret word before the snowman is completed. I included a game template for students in my recess binder that students can use as they draw each part of the snowman. This partner game is designed for social distancing because the students will only mark up their own gameboards. They can “show” each other their game boards by holding up their binders or folders as they play.
18. Word Hunt
Invite students to create their own word search using my Word Hunt game template! You can have students focus on particular phonics patterns or even a social studies or science topic as they design their game. Students can take it home to share with families if you make reproducible copies of the templates. The game can also be placed in a sheet protector and reused again and again! For an extension to this game, put a student’s board up on the document camera and invite the entire class to search for the words! The student who created the game board can cross off the words as they are found.
If you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE all of the games from my Indoor Recess Games for Social Distancing binder, click HERE or click on the button below to grab the pack from my TpT shop! If you don’t want to use these games during indoor recess time, they make excellent morning tub games, Fun Friday activities, or games that can be played as fast finisher activities.
Active Indoor Fun
Regardless of WHERE our students play, they need to be able to MOVE. Unfortunately, social distancing rules have made this difficult. The safest way to allow students to actively play and move within the classroom is for them to remain in their work spaces. This can be done by inviting students to stand up and stay behind or around their desk area. You can even tape large squares around their desk on the floor to mark off safe places for the students to move around in. Below are some links to movement games, videos, and activities that you can use during indoor recess, or, during an indoor activity time!
20. Yoga in the Classroom
Yoga is not only healthy for our bodies, but it is also great for our minds! However, most teachers have things to get done during indoor recess or morning time, so they can’t spend all of their time helping students “play”. I LOVE this Yoga Time On The Farm video that I found on YouTube by Cosmic Kids Yoga. The video directs the children through an entire child-friendly yoga class! You can click on the photograph below to check out the On the Farm video. Their Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel also has TONS of other Yoga Classes that you can put on for your students.
Set up an indoor sensory path obstacle course for your students! A sensory path is a series of exercises and movement activities that students walk through and complete. These can be placed in the classroom or in the hallway. To keep social distancing rules in place, only allow one child at a time to go through the sensory path. You might even put a class list that shows the order students can participate in the path, if they want. When the first student on the list is done, the next student can get up to complete the path. An example of a sensory path is linked below. It includes reusable, vinyl stickers that can be placed directly on the floor! You can choose from TONS of movement options for your path.
22. Freeze Dance
Break out the dance moves! Freeze Dance is a game that can be played at a safe distance from other students. It’s mess-free, movement-centered, and FUN! If you don’t have the time or desire to sit there and stop and start the music for your students, I have a solution! I found this awesome Freeze Dance video on YouTube. It takes students through the entire game of Freeze Dance by telling them when to move, freeze, and dance again! Just click on the image below to start dancing!
Teach your students how to play the classic game of Charades! One student will stand up in front of the classroom and act out an animal, object, content-related vocabulary word, etc. The other students can be at their seats (socially distanced) and guess what the student is acting out. Take a day to teach your students how to play and run this game themselves so that they learn how to work together without needing you to take the lead.
24. Simon Says
This game was designed for social distancing YEARS ago! Students can take turns leading this game in front of the classroom. The last student standing gets to be the new Simon Says leader. This game will get kids moving, socializing, and having fun at a safe distance from one another.
25. Go Noodle Indoor Recess Videos
Go Noodle has specific Indoor Recess Videos that range from approximately 15 to 20 minutes in length. These videos can be shown on your screen while students follow along. They are super fun, promote exercise, and no-prep!
Indoor Recess Can Still Be Fun!
Having fun indoors while social distancing IS possible! My best advice to keep things fresh and fun throughout the entire year is to space out the activities in this post. Don’t put ALL of the activities out at once for students to choose from. Slowly introduce them week by week. This will keep excitement flowing and allow students to fully engage and explore each idea. Don’t forget to bag materials individually to eliminate students sharing resources. This will also help with classroom management. Most importantly, HAVE FUN with your students! Laughing, talking, and building a community can happen anywhere- even six feet apart!
I hope this blog post gave you a helpful list activities, games, and ideas that can be fun AND socially distanced! If you found this blog post helpful, please share it with your colleagues and friends! Feel free to use the images below to pin it on Pinterest so that you can refer back to it when needed. Thank you so much for stopping by today!
Thank you so much for sharing such great ideas.. Right now I see so many teachers saying ” What are we going to do/” This is amazing. Thank you, thank you , thank you..
Thank you so much, Theresa! I’m so glad it was helpful! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing these ideas!! I’m so excited to try them, and so happy to have found your blog!
Welcome to Miss DeCarbo, Betsy! We’re so glad you found us, too! 🙂