Ensuring kids maintain social distancing while playing games and activities at recess can be particularly challenging for teachers.
Social distancing can be a difficult concept for children, especially younger children, to grasp. During recess, children are used to playing games with other kids, such as tag, in which they would interact with, touch, and be close to their friends.
Many of the activities that children usually do during recess are simply not possible while social distancing. So, what games can kids play at recess while maintaining social distancing?
In this post, we have put together a list of six fun recess games you can play while social distancing and some useful hints and tips on how to help children maintain social distancing during recess.
*Please note, that this post is just meant to give you some ideas for games and activities, and you should, of course, check your school’s/education body’s individual policy on social distancing to make sure these activities adhere to those policies.
Related: Social Distancing Classroom Games
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Social Distancing Recess Games
Tag is a classic recess game that kids love, but the original game is not possible while social distancing. A great alternative to this is ‘noodle tag’. If you’re not familiar with normal tag rules, usually one student would be ‘it’ and would chase other students and try to ‘tag’ (touch) them. If that student manages to tag another student then that student becomes ‘it’.
Obviously while social distancing kids cannot get close to other kids and touch them. So, one way to still play this classic recess game while social distancing is to use swimming pool noodles. These are long, soft foam tubes, usually used in swimming pools as a floatation device.
To use these to play ‘noodle tag’ you simply give one to the student that is ‘it’ and that student must try to touch another student with the noodle, rather than with their hand. This ensures the student stays a safe distance from other students and doesn’t have to get close to tag them.
Bean Bag Toss
To play, space the hula hoops six feet apart and ask the students to stand inside the hula hoops. Place another hula hoop in the middle, and provide each student with some bean bags. The students must take turns trying to throw their bean bag into the middle hoop.
This game is great as the hula hoops ensure that the kids stay in their zone and stay at least 6 feet apart.
Egg Spoon Race
This next recess game can be played easily while social distancing. To have an egg and spoon race, provide each student one egg and one spoon. This doesn’t need to be a real egg. This egg and spoon race kit on Amazon is great for this activity.
After giving each student an egg and a spoon, space them 6 feet apart at the start line and when they are ready, they should race to the finish line without dropping their egg.
A potential problem with this activity could be that if many students drop their eggs, they might come into contact with one another as they scramble (no pun intended) to pick up their eggs. A great way to avoid this happening is to have students take turns racing to the finish line, one by one, and to time them.
This way, if one student drops the egg, they wont come into contact with other students as they pick it up. To make it even more fun, why not time them as they complete an ‘obstacle course’ with their egg and spoon.
This simple game can be played outside in the playground while students social distance. All you need something to play some music. To play this game, simply play some fun music, and while the music is playing the students should dance. When the music stops, the kids should freeze and hold their position until the music plays again.
If a student can’t hold their position and they move then that student has to do something, like 10 star jumps, or make a silly face, etc.
To ensure the children social distance while playing these games, you could use hula hoops and ask students to stay inside their hula hoop. Or you could mark out some ‘zones’ with chalk or tape, etc.
Simon says is a fantastic game to get students to practice listening to, and following the teacher’s instructions. It is also very easy to play at recess while staying 2 metres apart. If you’re not familiar with this activity, here’s how to play. The teacher would give the student an instruction preceded by ‘Simon says..”
For example, “Simon says touch your head.”, “Simon says clap your hands.”, etc. As long as the teacher says “Simon says..” then the students should follow the instruction. If the teacher doesn’t say “Simon says..”, then the students should not follow the instructions. If they do, then they are out, or must do a forfeit of some kind.
Another way you could play this game is to tell students to only follow your instruction if you say “please”. For example, “Touch your head, please.” , “Clap your hands, please.”
Don’t Move Game
To play this next recess game, all you need is a soft ball or a balloon. In the playground, space students at least 2 meters apart and give them five seconds to jump around / dance. After the five seconds, shout “Don’t move!” and the students should freeze and hold their position.
Next, throw a soft ball (like a dodge ball or a ball soft enough that it wont hurt the students) high up in the air towards the students. If any student moves to avoid the ball, they are out. And if the ball hits any student, they are out.
With very young children, it might be best to play this game with a balloon or at least a very soft ball.
How To Help Children Social Distance At Recess
Children can have a difficult time understanding the need for social distancing. Younger children tend to live in the moment and might not realize that giving a hug or a high-five can transmit germs. It can also be difficult for children to understand how to visualize the appropriate distance they must stay apart.
To help children still feel connected with others without having to have physical contact, you could show them things like ‘air high fives’ and ‘air hugs’. Or better yet, ask your students to help come up with another way to show affection or appreciation. This could be as simple as making a heart shape with their hands, or something completely silly.
To help students visualize the distance they should stay apart during recess, you could use something, the size of which, they are familiar with. 6 feet or 2 meters doesn’t mean much to children and they have difficulty visualizing and understanding this distance. Instead, you could tell students to stay at least three students apart.
Another great way is to use some adhesive floor markers to mark out the distance that students should stay apart. These anti-slip, adhesive floor markers are perfect for this.
Thanks for reading. I hope this post helped you with some ideas for social distancing recess games. Before you go, check out our other post about social distancing classroom games, for some fun and free activities you can play in the classroom while students keep their distance.