5 Tips to Curb the Chaos of Indoor Recess

Hello There!

Happy Monday to y’all!  After our long, thinking-intensive How to Be an Educational Superhero series, I think we both need a little break.  Today I want to share with you some practical ways to keep from pulling your hair out on those rainy indoor recess days.

1. Get those wiggles out 

Your students want to be outside, right?  They want to be running, screaming, chasing, climbing, you name it.  Obviously this isn’t appropriate behavior inside.  That being said, you can give them a little taste of organized chaos, and get those wiggles out before they begin their indoor activities.  Start with having them dance it out.  There are a number of kid-friendly and even educational songs you can use.  Of course, there are our S.O.L. Train Learning Social Studies songs.  You can find them on TPT.  There are also songs by Jack Hartmann, Dr. Jean, and a number of other artists.

2.  Get that noise out

Once your students have danced it out, have them shout it out.  They will want to be noisy, so give them an indoor-appropriate opportunity.  You can even tell them this is their opportunity to be loud before they have to use inside voices.  You can use the song “Shout” and encourage them to be really loud when the song gets louder or choose from this list of camp songs.  “Boom Chicka Boom” has proved very popular for me in the past.

3.  Give your students responsibility

Encourage students to empathize with one another.  Just as we talked about in 10 Ways to Stop Sending Kids to the Principal, it is extremely important for students to understand why there are rules, and more importantly, have their own personal reasons to follow the rules.  I ran across another great article the other day that illustrates a similar point.  So, if you are following the “Must-Haves” method, remind your students of the must-haves for the classroom.  Ask them what actions need to be taken to ensure these must-haves are met.

4.  Engage your students

You may have some students who struggle with quiet activities.  This is their only outlet to decompress and maybe move a little.  (Although side note, we recommend movement throughout the day.  You will find that theme in our store and throughout the blog.)  You have 2 options:

1) You facilitate a movement activity for your wiggly friends:  It can be something as simple as Follow the Leader, or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.  You can have them copy clap patterns, play Simon Says, Hokie Pokie, etc.  This is a picture of Pam engaging with her students.  They are doing an alternate version of the Hokie Pokie.  There are a ton of options.  Your students can play outdoor games and replace running with fast walking, tip-toeing, or galloping(depending on your space).  I’ve played a game with my kids called “Energy Overload.”  This has a Science component to it as well.  Explain that each student is a light bulb, and all the furniture is energy.  A light bulb, or any other energy source, can only hold so much energy before it “overloads” and shorts out.  Have students move around the room, trying not to touch anyone or anything.  The second a student does, he or she “overloads” and has to sit down to “recharge.”  This way you are teaching your students about personal space and they are practicing agility.  Add in different types of movement like galloping, tip-toeing, side-stepping, etc, and they are also practicing different types of movement.

Another great way to facilitate movement as well as provide great practice of skills is play “Scoot.”

2)  Have wiggly students play on their own:  Understandably, this may be your only planning time, and you don’t want to give that up.  Present a couple more easily controlled games for students to choose from.  Here’s a pretty good list.  Some are a little trickier for students to do independently, but it’s a nice change of pace from typical indoor games.

5.  Set up stations and limits

To keep students from thinking your room is a free-for-all, set up stations within the classroom for
indoor recess.  If you limit the number of students per station, you will alleviate some of the chaos.  The more students grouped together at once, the more noise you will potentially have.  Also, keep the noise together and keep the quiet together.  Noisier activities on one side of the room and quieter activities on the other.  This will train students’ brains to compartmentalize.  You might even want to have students rotate and have one rotation be quiet, and the other noisy.

Pam has found a lot of success with Legos and other building materials.  This is a great way to incorporate STEM as they play.

Click Here to read more.

students doing STEM and Literacy


There are many options for you of which these are just a few.  Indoor recess doesn’t have to be something you dread.  As long as students understand expectations, and there is assumed order within the classroom.  Their behavior should follow.  Another good note, try not to be completely disengaged as you are doing your planning.  Maybe you can find a way to walk around the room, or sit at a student’s desk to do your work.  The more visible you are, the less chaos there is, because students see you as an example of composure.  If the example is off in a corner, they are more tempted to act out, either for attention, or because they know they can.  Obviously, I wish you many beautiful, warm, sunny days where your kiddos can run around with reckless abandon.  Hopefully this will help on those rare days when they can’t.  Now that I’ve just reached the bottom of this post, I recall that I promised you a post on centers!  Well shoot, I do apologize.  I will cook up something about centers for Fun Friday so stay tuned.

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