At Possip when the weather gets cold we tend to hear more from parents about recess. Parents and schools both want kids to be healthy, happy, and relaxed.
Schools get a unique view – seeing groups of kids who may come to school without coats and other kids who may be more sensitive to the cold. Parents get the unique perspective of seeing what a kid looks like by 6pm when they haven’t had recess during the day.
So it’s cold or rainy and kids need to exercise to relax their brains, work with other kids, and get physical.
What’s a school to do?
Here are some quick and fun ways to keep kids engaged while still giving them the opportunity to recharge their bodies, brains and teamwork skills. Most of these ideas require light teacher prep but once kids are set up, they’ll be fully independent!
All of these ideas can help kids relax or change up their brain – but these can also help them move or build teamwork skills!
Fun activities for teamwork and social relationships
Recess is about giving kids a space away from adults to work together, conjure up ideas together, and resolve conflict together.
- Student-led Talent Show: Help them brainstorm talents — from the usual to the whacky. Then let them go to design their own talent show.
- Paper airplane distance competition: Kids can practice with different models, different papers and added materials like paper clips, tape or glue to see how it impacts flight.
- Game tournaments: Games like Candy Land, Trouble and Sorry are great for kids to practice engaging with one another. Set up in a mini-March Madness tournament board and let kids run it themselves! Have students make their own board games to share with each other.
- Classroom Scavenger Hunts! Write these yourself or find grade-level appropriate ones online. My favorite evolution of this game is having your kids write them for one another! They can use the “Roses are red, violets are blue…” convention to start their clues.
- Throwbacks that are classics for a reason: Introduce your kids to some of the classics you loved. Some of my favorites that we always loved were getting the kiddos to make snowflake chains, snowman chains, or a class wide paper chain with their New Year’s resolutions.
- Lego Building Competitions: Legos are great — so are lego building competitions for your students who like a little competition. Create challenge cards like, “make a structure as tall as possible,” or “make a structure that can bear the weight of a library book,” or “make a structure that looks like our school.”
Fun activities for kids to move it!
Recess is also about keeping kids physically fit –moving their hearts and relaxing their nerves.
- Yoga: Cosmic Kids Yoga has themed videos, like Moana, Frozen and Star Wars: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5uIZ2KOZZeQDQo_Gsi_qbQ
- Short Bursts Outside: It may be cold for a 30-minute recess, but a 10- minute outside sprint competition could work! Consider a winter scavenger hunt, quick outdoor Relay race, a few games of I-Spy.
- Hallway Fun: You can’t send all your kids in the hall at a time – but if your school has a co-teacher model maybe one teacher can go in the hall with 4 or 6 kids at a time for a shuttle run or Relay race while another teacher stays in the classroom
- Dance, Dance Revolution! There are so many fun line dances you can find online. Cha Cha Slide and Cupid Shuffle are some favorites. Your kids will also have some favorites. Turn on the clean version of a song and let them show you how to Whip!
Fun activities for kids to relax while they learn
Let’s be honest. Some kids love the social, free-flowing nature of recess. For other kids it is anxiety producing and they prefer a more academic or structured break. Sometimes these kids can be found during traditional recess sitting in a corner reading a book. Here are some activities that work well for those.
- Find the Answer: Set kids up to find answers to interesting questions using books and our technology. One of my favorite sites for questions is http://www.faqkids.com/
- Give kids free time on non-fiction websites: Some of the ones we liked to use are Time For Kids, DiscoveryKids, or (my students’ personal favorite) Zooborns.com. They can fill out a quick “Journalist” sheet like this one.
- Reader’s Theater: Students work together can use familiar texts and put on plays. Choosing a student as director and let them figure out the rest. If your school already has a subscription, this is a great source: https://www.readinga-z.com/fluency/readers-theater-scripts/#.
If not, try this great free resource! https://www.dramanotebook.com/plays-for-kids/scripts-based-on-childrens-books/
These suggestions are light touch and light prep but high impact for keeping kids engaged, excited and able to recharge for the rest of their day. Best of luck!
Sarah Mueller taught in South Dakota — she’s had lots of experience figuring out recess experiences in the cold. She has also coached teachers in Dallas-Fort Worth and comes from a family of educators in Wisconsin. So we turned to her to get her thoughts on how to help navigate the challenge of student recess during cold weather.