Recess is a time for kids of all ages to relax and bond with their friends. Most teachers find that when they ask students what their favorite class is, they respond, "Recess!" Having a break in the middle of the school day is important for students because the break is a "brain break," giving the students time to get some energy out and recharge for their next subject or class. To help teachers better utilize recess, we’ve compiled a list of a few activities that may be effective, and divided them up by age group.
KINDERGARTEN THROUGH FIFTH GRADE RECESS ACTIVITIES
Kids attending elementary school are most likely to be the most creative during recess activities. They will enjoy drawing with chalk, creating imaginary games, and playing competitive activities such as four square or wall ball. During a child’s elementary years, teachers can encourage healthy habits by encouraging the students to play with one another during their recess. Initiating a game of Tag or hopscotch can teach children to love physical activity at an early age. But if they’re having trouble coming up with ideas on their own, here are a few recess games that will help kindergarten through fifth grade students release some of that excess energy.
1. Jump Rope
As kindergarten students learn and grow, one of the abilities they develop is to jump with coordination. Introducing jump rope during recess is the perfect way to encourage the students to refine their jumping coordination while also getting exercise during recess. Teachers can also show the students jump rope games and fun rhymes that make jump rope even more fun for the kids. And if jump roping is proving too difficult for some students, have a hula hoop on hand so they can give that a try instead.
2. Simon Says
Simon Says is another classic, simple game, and easy to implement if you need an indoor recess activity. To play Simon Says, stand at the front of the classroom and instruct all of the students to stand at their desks. When the kids are ready, say, “Simon says, ‘Turn in a circle.’” All of the kids should follow the direction and turn in a circle. Keep going by giving short commands beginning with, “Simon says.” At some point, say a command without saying, “Simon says.” If one of the students responds to the command, they’re out and have to sit down.
This game is great because it helps the kids learn how to listen intently to the words you’re saying, and it just may improve their academic performance. It is also a great way to get the kids exercising by saying things like, “Simon says, ‘Do 10 jumping jacks.”
3. Playground Activities
Kindergarten students can easily entertain themselves playing on the playground. There are endless activities to play on the playground equipment at the school. The students can play Lava Monster (where the “monster is on the ground and tries to tag the kids on the equipment) or just run up and down the slides. When you’re not sure which games to play, Tag is a great option.
SIXTH GRADE THROUGH EIGHT GRADE BREAK TIME ACTIVITIES
By the time a child has become a middle schooler, they start to prefer exercising their social skills rather than their physical ones during recess, like the younger students. They will begin caring more about their social standing with their friends and less likely to play purely imaginative games. Middle schoolers will enjoy talking with their friends and spend less time playing during their school breaks. However, this doesn’t mean that the kids are entirely opposed to playing games during recess. Here are a few recess games specifically tailored to that middle school age group:
1. Four Square
A classic recess game for all ages, four square is especially popular for middle schoolers. Most schools have four square courts included on the campus and balls available for students to use. Four square is popular among middle schoolers because middle school students can play without getting overly competitive and without using too much energy. It is a low-energy game that helps the kids to interact with one another. In some middle schoolers, playing four squares at recess encourages the kids to make friends.
Spud is a combination of Tag, HORSE, and Dodgeball, making it an extremely entertaining game to play and watch. But it also may be too complicated for the elementary school playground, which is why it’s on the middle school list.
To play, a non-participating player has to give all of the players a number. For example, if you’re playing the game with ten people, give everyone a different number between one and twelve, ensuring that there are two numbers that no one has (these will be your ghost numbers). Then, choose one person to be It. This starting player takes a ball and throws it into the air, calling out a number. The player with that number has to catch the ball as quickly as possible while the other players run in different directions. As soon as the player catches the ball, they yell, “SPUD,” and all the players stop moving. The player with the ball can take three giant steps towards any of the running and then throws the ball. If the player is hit with the ball, they earn an “S.” However, if the player catches the ball, the thrower earns an “S.” The person who threw the ball becomes the next It and will throw the ball into the air for the next round, calling out a random number. If It calls out a ghost number, they earn a letter. The first person to spell SPUD loses
3. Nine Square
Nine Square is similar to the classic game of four square, but it is elevated for older middle schoolers. As four square loses its appeal for seventh and eighth graders, introduce Nine Square as another recess option. Nine Square combines four square and volleyball to create a new, exciting game that’s perfect for all ages.
If you're on the hunt for an indoor recess activity, toss is a basic game that can encourage students to get to know each other inside the classroom. Although it’s simple, playing with a beach ball or bean bag or even a rubber chicken can easily entertain an entire classroom. Have students toss the item around the room and when someone catches the ball, have them say a random fact about themselves. Make sure each student gets a turn! It's a simple but great way to entertain students during indoor recess. You can also play card games, or short games such as Two Truths and a Lie or Mafia if the students start treating tossing as more of an outdoor activity than a classroom activity. If you play an indoor recess game like one of these, rather than just turning on a movie, having recess inside can actually be pretty fun. Any teacher who lets students throw things in the classroom is bound to be a hit with their students.
NINTH GRADE THROUGH TWELFTH GRADE BREAK TIME ACTIVITIES
During high school years, having a recess program built into the schedule is not common. Most students will use their lunch break as a time to interact with their classmates rather than exercise. During high school, students are much more social and put less emphasis on games during their breaks. Because of this, students should be encouraged to participate in after-school sports and gym class activities. Students aren’t likely to get much exercise between classes or during their recess breaks, but this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to encourage students to participate in recess-style activities. Here are some ideas to get high school students up and moving during their lunch breaks, or even just to use in Physical Education classes for older students.
1. Host Competitions
During lunch, few high schoolers will actively participate in physical activity with prompting. Most assume that their gym time fulfilled their need to participate in any other type of sweaty activity. For the most part, high schoolers will easily entertain themselves during breaks. However, if you want to encourage activities that mix groups, consider hosting mini competitions during lunch. These competitions can include minute-to-win-it games, small challenges, and other short easy games. Games like cornhole are easy because groups will line up to play. Typically, extremely physical games such as capture the flag or soccer aren’t popular lunchtime activities for high schoolers.
2. Encourage Club Activities
High schools are full of clubs. Clubs are considered extracurricular activities that many students join to put on their college applications. Clubs also help students meet with other students who feel passionate about specific topics, helping them make new friends. Teachers and supervisors who watch over the club meetings should encourage the students to participate in club activities. You can encourage students to join club meetings and activities by providing free food and snacks.
During lunchtime, you can easily encourage students to participate in activities by offering a reward. Have snacks and small prizes ready for anyone who participates in the activity that you want to host. If you offer a prize, it’s more likely that the students will want to participate without embarrassing themselves in front of their friend group (even if the activity doesn’t seem like it should be embarrassing to participate in). Most high school students will gladly join in an activity if they get something in return.
But no matter the age group, the best indoor and outdoor recess/break time games allow students to relieve stress and get out any pent up energy. So don’t be afraid to get creative!