30 Old-School Recess Games Your Students Should Play Now

A lot has unquestionably changed in schools in the last few decades. Despite the many technological advances like personal devices and online textbooks, some things don’t need any improvement. So put down those tablets and Chromebooks and get some fresh air—it’s time to go old-school! Sure, most students know popular recess games like tag and hopscotch, but what about Kabaddi and Ship to Shore? The next time your class needs to get outside to let off some steam or build teamwork and physical fitness, try one of these 30 classic recess games.

1. Parachute/Popcorn

Several small children and a few adults sit around a multi-colored parachute that has colorful balls being dumped on it as part of recess games..

Oh, the nostalgia of walking into gym or recess during your childhood and seeing that bright-colored parachute! Kids will love shaking their arms wildly while watching the balls dance around the parachute. Laughter will surely ensue!

Learn more: Youtube/Parachute Game “Popcorn”

2. Crab Soccer

Text says How to Play Crab Soccer. A cartoon boy is shown in a backbend position with his hands and feet down and head facing up. A cartoon soccer ball is also shown on a cartoon soccer field.

A fun twist on a timeless sport, all you need to play is a ball and some cones. Crab Soccer is just like regular soccer but in a silly crab-like position that will be sure to get your students laughing.

Learn more: YouTube/How to Play Crab Soccer

3. Bubbles

A little girl is shown blowing bubbles to demonstrate that bubbles can be used in recess games.. Text reads "10 Creative Ways to Play with Bubbles."

Bubbles will certainly be a hit with the littlest recess participants. While bubbles are fun on their own, they can also be used in a number of fun activities and recess games.

Learn more: The Inspired Treehouse

4. Duck, Duck, Goose

Before starting, have all your students sit in a circle. First, one player walks around the circle, tapping everyone on the head and saying “duck.” Whenever the player chooses, they can tap someone on the head and say “goose.” Finally, the goose stands up and chases the player around the circle. If they are tagged, they start over again, however, if the goose fails to catch them before they reach the open spot and sit down, the goose now starts play.

5. A Tisket, A Tasket

A white envelope with a red heart on it is open with a folded piece of white paper inside.

A duck-duck-goose variation that involves a basket with a letter in it and this nursery rhyme.

Learn more: Let’s Play Music

6. 44 Home

A little boy is shown hiding his face in his hands against a fence presumably counting during this variation of other recess games. The words 44 Home are across the top of the image.

A more active version of hide-and-seek, 44 Home is extremely popular on elementary school playgrounds across the world. One person is the finder and counts while others hide. The finder finishes counting, yells, “44 home!” and then tries to find where everyone is hiding before they make it back to base.

Learn more: BuzzFeed

7. Marbles

A classic among recess games, marbles work equally well inside or outside.

8. Ship to Shore

A line of older students is shown saluting a man facing them who is also saluting them.

Also known as Shipwreck, this fun Simon Says variation has students “hit the deck” and imitate a “man overboard.”

Learn more: Playworks/Ship to Shore

9. Horse

All you need for this classic game is a basketball hoop and a ball. Kids will have fun coming up with crazy shots for their opponents to take!

Learn more: Jr. NBA

10. Zero 1, 2, 3

Two children are shown swinging a jump rope while a girl jumps over it. Two other students look on in the distance.

Using one or two jump ropes, kids jump once, twice, three times (and so on) when it’s their turn. Once they have the hang of it, you can add complexity by requiring kids to do tricks as they jump.

Learn more: Playworks/Zero, 1, 2, 3

11. Kabaddi

Several older children are engaged in a game on a dirt court. A girl in a light blue shirt is shown with her legs and arms outstretched toward two girls in darker blue shirts. They are playing an international game that can be used as part of American recess games as well.

This tag variation has been played for over 4,000 years in India and is also frequently played in Japan, Nepal, and Pakistan (among other countries). Why not add it to the recess games played on your playground? It will surely be a hit.

Learn more: Kid World Citizen

12. Sardines

Three children are hiding in the forefront and a fourth child is seeking them in the game Sardines which combines other recess games like hid-and-seek..

Think of this game as reverse hide-and-seek. Whoever is “it” hides while the other players count. Unlike hide-and-seek, the other players then try to find (and join) the person who is it. Finally, the last player outside the hiding spot is the new it.

Learn more: Group-Games

13. Elastics/Jumpsies

Chinese Jumprope instructions. Black footprints are shown on the left and right sides of the diagram and instructions are in the middle.

This three-player game requires the skills of hopscotch and jump rope with some of the patterns from the game Cat’s Cradle.

Watch tutorial: ReadingIsFun/YouTube

14. Hula Tag

Students are shown on an outdoor courtyard with hula hoops around their feet and legs demonstrating one of many recess games that can be played with hula hoops.

As far as recess toys go, it doesn’t get much more classic than a Hula-Hoop. Hula-Hoops are fun on their own but when combined with tag, the fun never stops!

Learn more: Playworks/Hula Tag

15. DIY Chalk Twister

The top image shows a little girl holding a wooden cube with different colored circles drawn on it in chalk. The bottom image shows two girls drawing circles with chalk on the pavement.

Outdoor Twister? Sign me up! The best part is that you don’t even need any extra equipment.

Learn more: Kids Activities

16. Four Square

Four students stand on the four corners of a square. A ball is shown moving between them.

Similar to the classic game kickball but there’s no kicking. All you need is four large numbered squares and any rules you can come up with. Break a rule and you’re out, and the next player in line is in.

Learn more: SquareFour

17. Red Light, Green Light

A teacher stands facing a long line of students as they prepare to play this old school recess game.

This is a perfect recess game since it engages all of your students at once. Red Light, Green Light is fun yet easy to understand—go on green, but don’t get caught still moving on red!

Learn more: Playworks/Red Light, Green Light

18. Limbo

Two kids hold opposite ends of a pole while another child attempts to bend underneath it.

A simple game that requires just a pole or rope, limbo will test the limits of your students’ flexibility. Oh, and it’s fun too!

Learn more: NY Metro Parents/How To Play Limbo

19. Red Rover

Two long lines of students are facing eachother about 8 feet apart. The students in each line have their arms crossed and are holding hands. The Words Red Rover, Red Rover are printed on the image.

While fun, Red Rover, where you run headlong into a wall of peers, isn’t a game for the faint of heart. (Here is a video of a group of older students playing Red Rover.)

Learn more: Life Outside the Shell

20. Jacks

Perfect for individual or small-group play. Jacks are a versatile option since they can be played indoors during rainy day recess or outdoors for more bouncy fun!

21. Knockout

A boy is shown going to the hoop with a basketball while another boy plays defense. Two boys look on in the background.

Since most recess areas have a basketball hoop, this is a perfect game to blow off some steam in between classes. Kids will have fun while also working on their foul shots.

Learn more: Dick’s Sporting Goods/How To Play Knockout

22. Museum Guard

A cartoon police officer or security guard is shown with the words Museum Guard Game Indoor Recess Fun!

Also known as Statue, this game doesn’t require any running or a lot of open space (unlike its counterpart, Freeze Tag/Dance). As a result, it is a particularly safe and easy option for both outdoor and indoor recess.

Learn more: Fern Smith’s Classroom Ideas/Pinterest

23. Kick the Can

A tin can is spray painted orange with the word KICK in yellow as well as a yellow bulls eye on it.

Breathe new life into an old classic with a fresh can. Using a bright color will undoubtedly make the can impossible to miss and extra exciting to play with.

Learn more: Dukes & Duchesses

24. Mother, May I?

This game will certainly appeal to some of the bossier students in your class. First, students request to take five steps forward, hop forward on one foot, etc., and then are granted permission (or not) by one student who calls the shots, until they get tagged.

Learn more: Group-Games

25. Blind Man’s Bluff

A little boy is shown with a blindfold on and his hands and arms outstretched. Three children are following him from behind.

If you can find a quiet, safe area and get permission to use blindfolds, this tag variation adds a new level of challenge when the person who is it has a blindfold on.

Learn more: Kidspot

26. Seven Up

A classroom is shown with several students with their heads down on their desks and their arms extended with thumbs up. Several more students are shown walking around the seated students.

Since there are sure to be rainy and snowy days, a good indoor recess game or two is a must. This game is such a classic it was even included in one of Mark Twain’s stories!

Learn more: Memory Glands/Seven Up

27. Capture the Flag

Several kids are seen charging toward a small red flag coming out of a cone.

Few games are more beloved than Capture the Flag. It’s best for slightly older kids and is a great way for them to exercise both their physical body and competitive nature.

Learn more: Chandler Arizona/Flag, You’re It!

28. Doggy, Where’s Your Bone?

Children sit in a circle on a rug with another child inside the circle. The girl in the circle is pointing toward one of the children on the outside.

Another classic, in this game, whoever is it gets three tries to guess who took an eraser, or another object that stands in for the bone, from under their chair. (Here’s an example of young students playing the game while listening to the corresponding tune.)

Learn more: Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

29. Guard the Queen Dodgeball

A red dodge ball is shown with the words Guard the Queen Dodgeball in black.

Markedly similar to traditional dodgeball but with a fun twist, you can even play it outside with your class without worrying about runaway balls.

Learn more: Grandma Ideas

30. Snake

One student is shown shaking a jump rope while another student jumps over it.

Another fun take on jump roping, snake involves one or more kids shaking a jump rope while one or more kids tries to jump over it. Whatever you do, don’t let the rope hit you!

Learn more: Playworks/Snake

What are your favorite recess games to play with your class? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, check out our favorite team-building activities for the classroom.

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