Fight the Cold Weather Blues with Indoor Winter Recess Ideas

As we write this post, schools have been back from winter break for nearly a week. In that time, we’ve seen pouring down rain, an overnight snow, and temperatures in the teens. (Can you relate?) There’s no doubt that the winter blues can make it tough for teachers and students to stay motivated until spring. And if weather makes it impossible to get outside for recess, have no fear. Here are some fun ideas to keep students active and happy if they’re stuck indoors.

snow covered playground

The Importance of Recess

Recess plays an important role in a child’s physical, social, and intellectual development. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children take part in 60 minutes of physical activity each day. In addition, several national organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that school districts provide at least 20 minutes of daily recess for all elementary school students.

Research is making it clear that recess is about more than just letting students release energy and take a break from the classroom environment. Physical activity—even in short bursts— enhances students’ academic success and behavior.

Consider these findings presented by GENYOUth’s Wellness Impact Report:

    • Research has found a positive correlation between the amount of time spent being physically active and academic performance. Students who were more active during school and on weekends performed better on standardized tests for reading, math, and spelling.

    • School environment, including participation in physical education and recess, is key to the development of the areas of the brain that control functions relative to thinking, concentration, and acting (or not acting) on impulse.

    Make the Most of Winter Indoor Recess

    How can you make the most of recess when winter weather keeps you inside? Indoor recess doesn’t have to mean 20 minutes of board games and reading quietly. With these winter recess ideas, students can still get the physical activity they need to promote effective learning throughout the rest of the day.

    If you have access to the gym or cafeteria:

        • Divide your class into teams of four for relay races.
        • Create an obstacle course using balls, hoops, cones, and other simple gym equipment.
        • Bring their favorite outside games inside, including four square, wall ball, jump rope, and basketball.
        • Lay down a few gym mats for tumbling or yoga.

    If you’re staying in your classroom:

        • Start a hula hooping contest.
        • Utilize your favorite brain breaks that incorporate physical activity such as Go Noodle or Stories in Motion.
        • Play “action” Jenga by writing a physical activity (sit-ups, jumping jacks, squats) on each Jenga block. Twister is another great option!
        • Play charades. Create a list of actions, like this one, that will engage students’ bodies and imaginations.
        • Hold a classroom dance party.

    To encourage more activity, break these winter recess ideas into multiple stations around your classroom so more students can participate at the same time. Remember to make recess time manageable for you. Store all your equipment and resources on a mobile cart that can travel and be shared among classrooms. This bit of planning can go a long way, especially for spur-of- the-moment winter weather!

    Do your students cheer for indoor recess? Tell us some of your favorite winter recess ideas.

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