As colder weather approaches for most of us, it is wise to think about ways we can still provide the activity and movement breaks that children inherently need and want, even if time outdoors is not an option during school time. Research supports the notion that children are more active during spring than winter, and that recess activity contributes up to 44% of school day activity for elementary students. Therefore, we know that when it is too cold to go outside for recess, for instance, opportunity for their physical activity is often lost. Additionally, we know that typical indoor recess is fairly sedentary with popular options like watching a movie, reading quietly, or playing board games, among others. While these deskbound activities may be fun and/or social for the students, they do not support children’s intrinsic desire to move.

This makes the impetus for active indoor recess and movement breaks even more essential for the health and well-being of our students.

Active Indoor Recess

What can you do to make indoor recess “active”? The resources for this type of situation are out there. Activity cards provide teacher-led options to get students out of their seats, while online videos such as GoNoodle lead students through movement activities as they stand in a specific area. Several familiar and traditional activities are very good to get students moving—dance parties, tossing scarves, or playing indoor hopscotch. Here are a couple other classics that can be tweaked to ensure maximum participation:

Four Corners

Identify four corners or designated areas of the room. A leader covers his/her eyes and counts to 10. Students choose a corner, walk there, and stand. When the leader hits the number, he/she points to one corner keeping eyes closed. Instead of those students sitting down and waiting for the game to conclude, all students in that corner must quickly grab a marker, card, or ticket and place it on their desk. The game continues (with or without a new leader) with all students participating. When time is up after a predetermined amount of time, students go to their desks and count cards. The student with the fewest cards is the winner.


Select a leader and have that person go out in the hallway while the class hides an object (i.e., eraser or marker). The leader re-enters the classroom to find the object. Students tiptoe quietly in place if he or she is “cold” or far away from the object. As he/she moves closer to the object, students tiptoe faster and faster as he/she gets “hotter” or closer to the object. Different movements can be used to show hot or cold.

By attempting to meet the activity needs of students, we hope it will positively impact how they respond to your lessons and your requests of them. And remember to move with them to reward your mind and body as well!

More Indoor Recess Activities


Beighle, A., Alderman, B., Morgan, C. F., & LeMasurier, G. (2008). Seasonality in children’s pedometer-measured physical activity levels. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(2), 256-260.

Erwin, H. E., Abel, M., Beighle, A., Noland, M. P., Worley, B., & Riggs, R. (2012). The contribution of recess to children’s school-day physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 9, 442-448.