These fifteen games are fun and appropriate for a wide range of ages.
These games are ideal for a rainy day recess because they keep every child active as much as possible. Sadly, many classic indoor recess games are either involve few students at a time or include little motion (Four Corners, Heads Up Seven Up, etc.). Fortunately there are many better alternatives!
Many traditional playground games involve movements that can be brought into the classroom or hallway. I assume you already know these games, so this list of movement games does not try to teach you Wheelbarrow Races, Three-Legged Races, Simon Says, etc.
The class must line up while sorting itself. (Perhaps students brainstorm their own instruction.) Common examples include shortest to tallest, widest hand span, number of colors present in clothing, or how long students can balance on one foot.
The Animal Walks below are more interesting. But for young students this game is still fun and easier to fit into a classroom.
The teacher gives students instructions that include four types adjectives.
Depending upon the children, this game can resemble either Simon Says or Red Light Green Light.
This oral version of Red Light Green Light simply consists of students following the command until they mess up and get out. Students who get out should physically show that state (by sitting instead of standing, folding their hands, etc.)
Usually the teacher calls out the four commands the first round, and then the last student to not become out gains the privilige of calling out the commands the next round.
A tricky version of Red Light Green Light in which the command words are opposite to the required action. As usual, students who get out should physically show that state (by sitting instead of standing, folding their hands, etc.)
Usually the teacher calls out the four commands the first round, and then the last student to not become out gains the privilige of calling out the commands the next round. A variation allows each new command caller to redefine the motion for "Stop".
A few practice rounds may be needed for this tricky game!
Equipment: two objects (usually beanbags or balls) of different colors
In this variation of Hot Potato, everyone sits in a circle. The two objecs start opposite each other. One object is the Rabbit, and is passed in either direction. The other object is the Fox, and is always passed left or right depending upon which is the shortest path to the Rabbit.
Both the Rabbit and the Fox are passed, not thrown. Both objects should be passed as quickly as possible, as if they were "hot potatoes". Start the game over if the Fox catches the Rabbit. Older participants can use more than one Fox and Rabbit.
These may be seen as "too girly" for older kids, but can be fun if everyone is willing to play. Dozens are easily found online.
Equipment: sets of six popsicle sticks, each decorated distinctly on one side (and the other side plain)
Divide the children into groups of four to six, and give each group a set of popsicle sticks.
The following eight Meta-Rules may not be changed:
To clarify Meta-Rule Eight, the new rule "If the only decorated side showing is the polka dot stick, the next person must sing a song before taking his or her turn" is legal. But changing that new rule from saying "the next person" to instead say "everyone wearing a yellow shirt" or "Jessica" is not legal.
Meta-Rule Nine is usually ignored by younger players but can be important if older players are trying to be deliberately confusing. To clarify it, consider the new rules "A result of two plain sides means you get a tally mark" and "Someone who gets two decorated sides may switch the result to two plain sides." If those rules were made in the order just stated, someone who gets two decorated sides does not get a tally mak. But if those rules were made in the other order, someone could get to first switch two decorated sides to two plain sides and get a tally mark. (What do tally marks do? Somone else needs to make another rule!)
Remind everyone that "winning" this game is about having fun, not making the game end as quickly as possible by getting ten points.
Encourage people to include physical movements in their new rules. Sometimes Meta-Rule Six is relaxed to allow one "and" that combines a physical movement with a change to how points or stick results work.
Participants stand in a circle. (A large class can be divided into several circles.) Teeth should be hidden by curling the lips over the teeth. Mouths must stay slightly open.
The initial "passing gesture" is turning the torso to point at the next person in the circle while clapping with straight arms so the fingers point at the next person. In subsequent rounds the last participant who is not out gets to pick the passing gesture for the next round. (Common choices are jumping in a circle and pointing while landing, wrinkling the nose, marching steps, wiggling the knees, etc.)
To play the game, pass the word Zip around the circle while making the "passing gesture". A participant may instead say Bong and reverse the direction of passing.
A participant becomes out by missing his or her turn, showing his or her teeth, or closing his or her mouth. Beware laughing!
Equipment: several erasers (or other objects possible to balance on the head)
In this variation of Duck Duck Goose, participants begin sitting down (at their desks or tables, or on the floor).
This game involves to roles: Eraser Hands and Eraser Heads. An Eraser Hand leaves his or her seat and carries an eraser in his or her hands until he or she sets it on another child's head—that child becomes an Eraser Head, who then chases the Eraser Hand in a walking race. The Eraser Hand must walk heel-toe-heel-toe. The Eraser Head must walk with the eraser balanced on his or her head without touching it with his or her hands (if it falls off, the Eraser Head stops to pick it up and re-balances it before continuing to walk).
If the Eraser Head tags the Eraser Hands, the Eraser Head goes back to his or her seat and the Eraser Hand starts over. If the Eraser Hand avoids being tagged and gets back to his or her own seat, the Eraser Head becomes a new Eraser Hand.
Play with as many erasers (and thus participants having the role of Eraser Hands) as possible without creating utter pandemonium. Each Eraser Head can only tag his or her own Eraser Hand.
Equipment: one beanbag (or soft ball)
Students start sitting on their desks. (Desks are idea. Classrooms with tables can play this game but students might be too close to each other.) Inititally the teacher is the only referee.
The student with the beanbag points to whom he or she will throw before making the throw.
A student becomes out if he or she drops the beanbag, does not throw it accurately, or makes any noise. Students who are out must sit in their chair and may help as referees. If the beanbag falls to the floor it goes to the nearest student who is in (not out). A student who is in cannot become out when someone who is out throws them the beanbag to get the game going again.
The last player in starts the next game.
Some classrooms, especially in preschool or kindergarten, have enough room for kids to try most of thse animal walks either in groups or moving in a circle around the room. But their ideal setting is a gym large enough for all students to play simultaneously, without having to wait to take turns.
Half the students stand in a circle, holding hands high. (A large class can be divided into several circles.)
One student in the circle is the cat. The cat turns around to face away from the circle, then joins hands again to reconnect the circle.
Those students not part of the circle are mice who start moving in and out of the circle, under the held hands. The cat can say "Snap!" to command everyone in the circle to drop hands. Any mouse tagged by the dropped hands is "caught in the mouse trap" and joins the circle.
The last mouse not caught becomes the next cat.
The class is divided into two lines. (They are not teams.) The lines face each other.
As students walk towards each other, each time they meet someone from the other line they do the usual Rock-Scissors-Paper hand motion of "one, two, three, show-symbols". Any student with a losing symbol goes to the back of his or her line. The first student to get past the obstructing line wins.
The room is divided into two halves with a visible center line.
The class is divided into two teams. Each team uses one of the two "back" walls of the room as a safe place.
The teams meet by their safe wall to quietly agree upon one of the three symbols. Then both teams face each other across a center line. Everyone together does the usual Rock-Scissors-Paper hand motion of "one, two, three, show-symbols". If a tie, the two teams return to their safe wall to brainstorm again. Otherwise, the team with the winning symbol chases the other team. Students who used the losing symbol who reach the safe wall stay on their team; their tagged teammates are stolen away to join the other team.
Eventually one team is completely absorbed by the other team and the game ends.
To retain a semblency of loyalty to the original teams, the game works best if some small reward (lining up first when done, etc.) is awarded to the original members of the winning team.
Equipment: one beanbag (or soft ball)
This more interesting version of Silent Ball requires a bigger room without desks.
Students start sitting on the floor. The student with the beanbag points to whom he or she will throw before making the throw.
A student becomes a tree if he or she drops the beanbag, does not throw it accurately, or makes any noise. Students who are trees must stand with their feet "rooted" to the floor but may wave their arms. A tree that intercepts a throw made by a sitting student (merely touching the beanbag, catching is optional) may stop being a tree and sit again. If the beanbag falls to the floor it goes to the nearest student who is not a tree. A student who is not a tree cannot become a tree when a tree throws them the beanbag to get the game going again.
The last player not a tree starts the next game.