Put down the phones. It’s time to go old school! Sure, most students know how to play tag and hopscotch, but what about Spud 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. Steal the Bacon
Part patience and listening, part sprint and tag. You can find out more by reading the rules.
Learn more: Physical Education Games
2. Colored Eggs
This exhilarating and creative game is sure to involve your entire class. After they play it once, it’ll be the only game they ever want to play!
Learn more: Living in Happy Place
You can sit back and watch your students scatter over and over again—just hope that the students with the most energy aren’t the ones who get Spud first.
Learn more: Growing Play
Have all your students sit in a circle. To start, 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 said, “goose.” The goose stands up and chases the player around the circle. If they are tagged, they start over again. 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 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 more active version of hide-and-go-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
This classic recess game will have everyone bringing their favorite “shooter” to school!
8. Ship to Shore
Also known as Shipwreck, this fun Simon Says variation has students “hit the deck” and imitate a “man overboard.”
Learn more: Ship to Shore/Playworks
9. Turtle Tag
This one’s bound to get a good laugh. It’s exactly the same as regular tag, except in order to avoid being caught by the tagger, students must lie on their backs with their hands and feet up in the air, like turtles.
Learn more: Lessons Learnt Journal
10. Zero 1, 2, 3
Using one or two jump ropes, kids jump once, twice, three times (and so on) when it’s their turn. Add complexity by requiring kids to do tricks as they jump.
Learn more: Zero, 1, 2, 3/Playworks
This tag variation has been played for over 4,000 years in India and is also frequently played in Japan, Nepal, and Pakistan (among others). Why not try it out on your playground? It’s a guaranteed hit.
Learn more: Kid World Citizen
Think of this game as reverse hide-and-seek. Whoever is it hides while the other players count. The other players then try to find (and join) the person who is it. The last player outside the hiding spot is the new it.
Learn more: Group-Games
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 on YouTube
14. What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
This game can best be described as Red Light, Green Light on overdrive. Students are tasked with getting by Mr. Fox before “lunchtime,” but it’s easier said than done—foxes tend to be quite clever.
Learn more: Fatherly
15. DIY Chalk Twister
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
The classic kickball game you play without kicking. All you need is four large numbered squares and any of the 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. Scarecrow Tag
This version of tag allows players to be set free if another player crawls through their legs once frozen! Since it’s harder for a tagger to get out, consider using a stopwatch and swapping out the taggers.
Learn more: Scarecrow Tag/Childhood 101
18. Rabbit Hole
For young kids, this game is a sneaky way to get some balance, coordination, and motor control practice during recess. Oh, and it’s fun, too!
Learn more: The Inspired Treehouse
19. Red Rover
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
Perfect for individual or small group play. Jacks can be played indoors during rainy day recess or outdoors for more bouncy fun!
21. Charlie over the Ocean
Another one of the duck-duck-goose variety, in this version students sing this tune, then choose someone to chase after the song is over.
Learn more: The Unquowa School
22. Museum Guard
Also known as Statue, this game doesn’t require any running or a lot of open space (unlike its counterpart, freeze tag/dance). This makes it a particularly safe and easy option for both outdoor and indoor recess.
Learn more: Fern Smith’s Classroom Ideas
23. Kick the Can
Breathe new life into an old classic with a fresh can. Using a bright color will make the can impossible to miss and extra exciting to play with.
Learn more: Dukes & Duchesses
24. Mother, May I?
A good game for the bossy students in your class—students request to take five steps forward, hop forward on one foot, etc. and 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
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. Shadow Tag
A new twist on a classic, shadow tag is the perfect activity to shake up sunny days and get students moving. Instead of tagging others’ bodies, the child who is it must tag their shadows. This also decreases opportunities for roughhousing on the playground; it’s a win-win!
Learn more: Welcome to Room 2
27. Capture the Flag
Capture the Flag is an all-time favorite outdoor game for most kids. 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: LiveAbout
28. Doggy, Where’s Your Bone?
The person who is it gets three tries to guess who took an eraser, or other object that stands in as the bone, from under their chair. (Here’s an example of young students playing the game with a little tune.)
Learn more: Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
29. Guard the Queen Dodgeball
This outdoor dodgeball game is a clever revamp of traditional dodgeball. You can even play it outside with your class without worrying about runaway balls.
Learn more: Grandma Ideas
Sounds ominous, but it’s really fun! Where? Your classroom. How? A flick to the palm of the hand.
Learn more: WikiHow
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.