Three Engaging Games for Indoor Recess

By Mark Kretzmann

Photo by DC_Colombia/iStock / Getty Images

At many elementary schools indoor recess is common.  The weather, the location, and other factors may lead to recess being held inside the school building. Indoor recess is challenging but it is also an opportunity to help children practice unique social skills.  Here are three fun, engaging, commercially available indoor games that children generally like to play together.  These games are affordable, easy to learn, accommodate more than two players and are popular across multiple settings which allows children to generalize their skills to the home or community.  These games can still be used if they are missing a part or slightly damaged and no batteries are required.  remakingrecess.org does not sell or profit from these games.  We only recommend them.  Of course, there are many other fun, cost-effective options to support peer engagement.

Twister:  Twister is a classic game played on a plastic mat showing colored circles in a grid.  A spinner tells the players where to put their hands and feet.  Twister has simple rules allowing children to practice body control in close proximity to peers without a lot of instruction.  A good way to introduce a beginner to the game is to allow them to spin the spinner and observe the gameplay.  Twister is affordable retailing for under $20, and durable.  The plastic mat can easily be cleaned and the game can be played without the spinner if necessary.  Twister is produced by Hasbro.

Jenga:  Jenga is a block stacking/removing game.  Players take turns removing blocks from a block tower and placing them on the top.  Play continues until a player topples the tower.  Jenga allows many players and it holds  their attention because they don't want to miss the moment when the tower falls.  Jenga is available for about $15.  The blocks are simple and durable and the game can still be played if a few blocks are missing.  Multiple sets of Jenga can be combined.  Jenga is produced by Hasbro.

Uno:  Uno is a popular card game where players start with seven cards and take turns discarding cards based on the color or number of the card topping the discard pile.  There are wild cards and a few other fun specialty cards incorporated into the otherwise simple, colorful deck of cards.  Uno is easy to play and fast moving.  An Uno deck can be used even if it is missing cards.  Retailing for around $8 it's a great buy for indoor recess.  Uno is produced by Mattel.

Help Children Talk to Peers at Lunch

There are very few opportunities during the school day when children have a chance to engage with classmates in "free" conversation.  Lunchtime is a great chance to chat with peers.  Talking with classmates at lunch is a great way for children to boost their social skills.  Observe children at lunch/snack and see if they are able to eat, relax AND talk to peers.  Some kids need a boost!  Watch the video to see Caitlin help two boys talk to each other during lunch

Peer Engagement States

By Mark Kretzmann

How engaged with peers is the child you are observing?  Is she or he solitary, parallel, parallel aware, an onlooker, jointly engaged or playing a game with rules?  Learning to identify different states of peer engagement for the children at your recess will help you help them engage.  To maximize the social benefits of recess children should regularly engage with their peers.  Aim for games!

Remaking Recess uses a coding system based on the Playground Observation of Peer Engagement (POPE) to track a child's interaction with peers during social times at school.  The POPE form and codebook can be downloaded from the Toolbox.

Teach Your Children Popular Games

Engaging with peers at a high level during recess is a great way to build social skills. Teach your child how to play games that are popular at their school. We asked 1764 elementary school students in California, Michigan, Boston and Seattle what they liked to play with their friends at school.  See the graph for their answers.

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