Looking for indoor recess ideas? Below, you’ll find winter indoor games and activities to add to the recess line up when it’s too cold to go outdoors for recess. We’ve tried to come up with indoor recess games for older kids AND indoor recess ideas for kindergarten and the younger grades. Some of these ideas work well with traditional indoor recess group activities, and others are better suited for socially distancing during indoor recess, while still allowing kids to move! All of the inside recess ideas can be used to add activity and movement when it’s raining or too cold for outdoor recess!
Indoor Recess Winter Activities for Kids
Here are more ways to get the kids moving this time of year:
Indoor Recess Ideas
This time of year can be a real struggle for kids. They’ve got a long school day, where it’s too cold to go outside for recess. Many are on screens during much of that day, especially if schooling is done virtually or at home with distance learning.
After school brings continued cold temps and an followed by coming home to an early sunset. Not to mention, many kids have after-school activities scheduled. It’s no wonder that kids are less active than ever before.
Because of this, I wanted to share these indoor recess ideas that can be used to add activity, motor planning, visual motor skills, midline crossing, and general movement!
1. Turn on the music and have a Crossing Gross Motor March. Crossing Midline is a developmental ability that is important for so many gross motor tasks. When a child has difficulty with crossing midline, they may demonstrate inefficiency with other areas like fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, hand dominance, self-care, reading, handwriting, and so many other areas. This can be done in a socially distanced format in a well-spaced out area such as a gym or hallway. And, for our virtual learners, this activity is fun for the whole family.
2. Add proprioceptive and vestibular input with an Indoor Skating activity! All you need for this activity is a pile of paper plates or old tissue boxes. If you have a carpeted area in the classroom, this can be a great way to identify a space for indoor ice skating during indoor recess. Add specific moves and have kids copy the ice skating moves to really incorporate motor planning and direction following.
3. Do the Hokey Pokey. Need some fresh ideas when it comes to the classic hokey pokey? Try playing “Snow-key Pokey” with a snowman theme. Just label the various body parts a snowman would have. For example: Snow cap, stick arms, boots, snow bottom, etc.
4. Animal Races- Gather a group of kids and have relay races in the hallway or gymnasium area. Kids can split into two teams and race against one another. Each child will need to come up with an animal walk as they race back to tag another person on their team. Some animal walk ideas include: donkey kicks, penguin waddles, bear walks, crab walks, frog jumps, elephant walks, snake slithers, etc.
5. Arctic Animal Yoga- Add animal walks with an artic theme. These would go perfectly with an animal theme and add the bonus of calming stretches. They are a great movement break during the day, use at circle time, morning meeting, free time or for use during stations. These cards are fun for use during physical education or in group/individual physical and occupational therapy. They are a great way to add simple movement into the day which we know is essential for learning and concentration. Use them with an arctic unit! These polar bear gross motor therapy activities can be used as a winter brain break or recess activity.
6. Freeze Dance- Turn on YouTube and dance to the music. When the music stops, everyone needs to FREEZE!
7. Charades- Ask each student to write on a slip of paper a character, animal, or object. Combine themes from the curriculum, favorite books, or movies. Students can act out the people or objects on the cards while the rest of the class guesses what the student is describing with movement.
8. Indoor Balance Beam- Try some of these indoor balance beams using everyday items or a roll of painters tape. There are so many benefits to using balance beams. It’s a fun way to break up indoor recess into centers, too.
9. Ribbon Wand Dance- Make a handful of DIY ribbon wands and sneak in some gross motor skills and movement by dancing to music.
10. Indoor Gross Motor Game- Get the whole class involved in gross motor play with jumping, hopping, and more with this Dinosaur Gross Motor Game uses mini dinosaur figures. Grab the free printable game spinner and activity here.
11. Bean Bag Games- This group gross motor core strengthening activity is a fun way to get the whole class involved in a group game! Make it a winter theme with these snowflake bean bags.
12. Play the Four Corners Classroom Game– Add movement and sneak in some auditory processing work with this fun game shared over on The Game Gal.
13. Who Am I Game- The kids can write down book and movie characters on a sticky note and stick it to their forehead. They can ask other students questions as they move around the room, trying to figure out who they “are”!
11. Winter Toothpick Art– Use the Winter Fine Motor Kit materials to get kids moving with the toothpick art activities. These can be used on cardboard or a carpeted area to help kids build fine motor strength and tripod grasp.
12. Winter Crumble Art- This is another fun fine motor activity for indoor recess. Use bits of tissue paper or crumbled up construction paper to create a winter picture. These sheets are in the Winter Fine Motor Kit, too.
I hope these ideas are helpful in creating opportunities for movement and activity during these indoor recess months at school!
The Winter Fine Motor Kit has materials to print-and-go, including arctic animal finger puppets to develop finger isolation, toothpick art activities with winter themes, crumble art pages, coloring and pencil control activities for building strength and endurance in the hands. All of these materials are included in a 100 page packet with winter themes: snowmen, mittens, snowflakes, penguins, polar bears, arctic animals, and more.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.