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Active Indoor Recess

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Are your students restless from being cooped up inside due to rain or cold? Active indoor recess is a great way to get physically moving, regardless of space or equipment constraints. Support students in getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day by implementing a fun and engaging indoor recess program. 

 Recess is social in nature and gives children open-ended free time where they can use their imaginations and engage in meaningful ways with friends through unstructured play. Children develop skills in communication, conflict resolution and teamwork through games and activities while putting the wiggles to good use to help reset and refocus.   


Take Action

Try some of these strategies to get your students moving during indoor recess: 

  • Don’t wait to plan for indoor recess until the weather goes south. Partner with school administrators, teachers, recess providers, parents, and caregivers at the beginning of the school year to create a plan for active indoor recess.
  • Review your school schedule to assess available space. Is the gym available for any portion of recess? What about the cafeteria or auditorium? Is there an empty classroom? Is there a spacious hallway where students could run relays or jump rope?
  • Does your school lack space for indoor recess? Partner with local gyms, YMCAs and fitness studios within a short walking distance of your school to see if space is available for students to use one or two days per week. Or, ask if they have an instructor who would be willing to donate time to visit the school once per month for a special fitness class during recess.
  • Create classroom indoor recess carts or bins that are themed by activity and vary in group size. Include mobile materials such as jump ropes, soft balls, manipulatives, movement dice, and yoga mats and cards so teachers have easy access to equipment. Other activities may include arts and crafts, ribbons and noisemakers for creative expression and movement, partner or group games.
  • Recruit older student leaders to lead indoor recess activities. Student leaders can serve as great role models for their peers and younger students to be physically active.
  • Organize a year-round walking club. Walking is an activity that is easy and accessible to most students, staff and parents. Host an extra walking club day during indoor recess for students to track more steps. 



Get student input – What would they like to do during indoor recess? Active indoor recess provides opportunities for children to come up with their own ideas on how to get active and better manage feelings and emotions. Student autonomy supports the development of self-confidence and fosters creativity. Perhaps host a student and staff survey to gain insight and integrate trending activities and games. 

Don’t be afraid to leave activities open-ended. Unstructured play is critical to a child’s development and can be explored in many ways. Bins and recess carts filled with manipulatives, resources, and other materials are a great way to provide direction but allow students to determine what and how they use them. 

Establish indoor recess structures and routines and practice them consistently to ensure students are safe and not disturbing other classes. 

Provide ongoing support and learning opportunities for teachers to find new, safe and age-appropriate ways to keep students active while indoors. 

Coordinate with your school’s physical education teacher to offer games and other activities safe for a classroom setting. 

Partner with a local fitness instructor or a caregiver with a fitness or wellness background to host fitness, mindfulness, or dance classes during recess. 

Invite parents and caregivers to compile indoor recess carts or bags for student use throughout the year. 

Connect with a local college or university to have student volunteers lead activities during recess – these volunteers serve as great role models, too. 

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