10 Games for Indoor Recess Days

I live in a part of the United States that can see snow up to six months out of the year. It can get so cold and blustery that on rare occasions we've had snow as early as October and as late as May and June! When it is too cold and snowy for outside recess, I open my closet of board games and puzzles and let the children play quietly with each other for their 45 minutes of recess. Here is a list of their absolute favorite board games to play!

Six board games to play during inside recess and four games to avoid. Checkers, chess, Battleship, Connect 4, Candy Land, card games. K to 3rd grade.

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.

Jumbo Checkers

This jumbo checkers rug is by far my students' absolute favorite game in the closet! Every second and third grade class I've taught has loved it. There have been a couple of years in which my students have gotten so into checkers that we've actually set up checker tournaments for them. The prize for the winner? A set of jumbo checkers of their very own!

Jumbo checkers rug and pieces


Believe it or not, chess can be a popular game for inside recess. The students in my class who became really good at checkers and eventually grew bored with it enjoyed the challenge of learning chess. We tried several chess sets before settling on this magnetic chess set. My students like this one because they can essentially save their game if they don't finish it before recess ends.

Magnetic Chess Board and Pieces


Battleship is another all-time favorite game to play during indoor recess. Even though it is advertised as a game for boys, my female students love it too. (We don't have girl games and boy games in my class. We only have good games!) Battleship is traditionally played by two people going head-to-head. However, I had a group of second grade students one year who figured out how to turn Battleship into a team sport... one small group of friends vs. another small group of friends. Those were fun games to watch!

Battleship Box Cover

Connect 4

Connect 4 is a popular game in my classroom for two reasons. First, Connect 4 is simply a fun game to play. It's quick. It's easy. And multiple rounds can be played before recess is over. The other reason why Connect 4 is popular... the pieces can also be used as checkers. Over the years, I've had numerous students draw their own checkerboards and use the Connect 4 pieces as checkers. Very clever!

Connect 4 box cover

Candy Land

Yes... you read that correctly... Candy Land. I never would have predicted that Candy Land would have been a popular game in my classroom, but it's a favorite for some students. There is a comforting nostalgia about Candy Land. When students are feeling tired from learning skills all day, sometimes they like to take a mental break and play something easy and familiar. Candy Land is popular for another reason... the Candy Land characters can be used for dramatic play. Lots of impromptu stories about Queen Frostine, King Kandy, and Princess Lolly have been acted out during recess!

Candy Land Box Cover

Card Games

Way back in the old days when I was a little girl, card games like Go Fish, Slap Jack, and Old Maid were popular. Surprisingly, my students get excited to play them too! Some of your students will already know how to play these games whereas others will need to learn. My students always have fun teaching their friends how to play. I imagine yours would as well. Card games like these are fun to play when students need a fun mental break from the 'hard stuff.'

Hoyle Card Games Box Cover

I've rotated countless games in and out of my gaming closet over the years but these six games remain the most popular among my students. However, there are several board games that have been removed from my closet... never to see the inside of my classroom again. Four of these games are:

🍎 Mouse Trap I loved playing Mouse Trap as a child and thought it'd be a terrific game for indoor recess. Nope. If one tiny piece from the game goes missing, the mousetrap can't be set properly and the students will get upset.

🍎 Perfection In theory, Perfection seems like it'd be a good game from the classroom. It's great for building eye-hand coordination, matching, patterning, etc. No, no, no, no. Don't do it. The tiny pieces get lost. The timer is noisy. And the children randomly shouting YEEEEEEEEEEEAH or AWWWWWWWWWWWW and having to shush them for it is enough to drive a teacher batty.

🍎 Operation Take everything I said about Perfection and copy-paste it here. Trust me. The buzzer in Operation is the worst part of it. Let your students play Operation with their friends at home.

🍎 Scrabble Scrabble is one of my favorite games to play with my family and friends and... in theory... it seems like it'd be a great game for indoor recess. Sadly, it's not. When students are still working on their spelling skills and vocabulary acquisition, you quickly discover that Scrabble can be a frustrating experience for them. Scrabble is often the biggest dust collector in my gaming closet for this reason.

What games do your students like to play during inside recess? What games do you avoid? Tell us in the comments below!

Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, check out these other blog posts for more fun activities you can try during indoor recess:

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