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Best Games to Play at Recess

These classic and updated schoolyard games get an A-plus in Fun 101.

Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns

recess games


I think we can all agree: Recess is the best part of going back to school. Maximize your time outside and work off that pent-up energy from sitting at a desk all morning with one of these exciting recess games. Choose from classic games like four corners or hopscotch, or try out something new like around the world or blanket volleyball. Whichever playground game you pick, you'll be ready and focused for the remainder of the day. 

Four Square



Think you have what it takes to be king or queen of the blacktop? Put your skills to the test with a game of four square. To get the game started, you'll need at least four players, a playground bouncy ball, and a four-square court (don't have one? you can draw one with chalk: just make a big square divided into four squares labeled 1 through 4).

When you have everything ready to go, have each player stand inside one of the squares and bounce the ball back and forth. The goal is to bounce the ball into another player's square and take control of the court. However, if a player knocks the ball into their own square or hits the boundary line, they are out. Each time someone gets knocked out, another player replaces them on the court, and the remaining players move up a square. It's a good thing this game doesn't have an official ending, as it will be going all recess long. 

Blanket Volleyball

Sure, you've heard of volleyball, but have you heard of blanket volleyball? The game is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, but with an amusing twist. Instead of bumping the ball back and forth, the goal of the game is to catch and throw the ball using a big blanket or top sheet. Sounds easy? Think again. The game will take a good amount of coordination and practice and will provide you and your classmates a whole lot of laughs along the way. 

Around the World



Get a tour of the world all without leaving the playground during recess with a game of around the world. Head to the basketball court and set up five or six shooting zones on the court. Then one-by-one, see if you can make each shot for a trip around the world. If you miss a shot, get back in line and try again. The first person to complete the trip wins — and luckily won't have to waste any time in the airport during their global exploration




Forget about math, science, and reading — at least during recess — and use the open field to clear your head with a game of tag. Tag is a classic recess game that doesn't get old. However, if you feel like you need an upgrade, switch it up! Play a round of freeze tag, blob tag, or bandaid tag. The fast moves and big laughs will give you a nice recharge for the rest of the school day.  




Turn your school's blacktop into a colorful work of art with a game of hopscotch. Take some chalk with you to recess and draw a classic hopscotch board with ten different squares. After a few rounds of the classic game, switch it up and add in your own rules. Color in a few squares and make everyone hop backward when they land on them or add in additional squares for a mega game of hopscotch.




Hot day? Let the jacks do all the jumping around. Find a cool and shady spot and scatter your jacks on the ground. Then, give your ball a good bounce and see if you can collect all of the jacks in one clean sweep. Play with a friend or go all out with a round-robin tournament to carry through the whole school week. You'll have that bounce-hand-eye coordination down in no time!

Stuck in the Mud



Don't worry — there's no actual mud involved in this field game. Stuck in the mud takes everything you love about tag and freeze tag and combines them into one. To get the game started, grab a big group of friends and assign a few people to be "it." When it's go time, start to run and hope you don't get tagged! If you do, you are stuck in the mud! The only way to get out of the mud is for a friend to crawl underneath your legs. Just hope you don't get stuck in the mud when the bell rings to go inside — you won't want to miss class!




A jump rope is a perfect way to release all that built-up energy from sitting at a desk all morning long. Not only is jumping rope a good energy release, but it's also a great form of exercise to keep your heart healthy and strong. Grab a jump rope for a single session of bouncing around, or use a bigger rope to jump around with friends. The jump rope can also be adapted to play other games in the courtyard like snake or reverse limbo. 

Ball Games



Have a ball? Then you're pretty much set for endless entertainment during recess. Play a round of 500, SPUD, or grab a bunch of friends for a game of kickball. Want more of a challenge? Set up two teams and battle for the ball in a game of steal the bacon. Want to know the best thing about all of these games? All you need is a ball to get started.

What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?



Think you have what it takes to get past Mr. Fox? Put your sneaking skills to the test in this chase-meets-tag mashup game. So, how exactly do you get past Mr. Fox? With some very sneaky feet and a burst of speed. Pick a friend to be Mr. Fox and let them go a bit further out on the playing field. Then, have everyone call out, "What time is it, Mr. Fox?" Whatever time Mr. Fox answers is the number of steps you take — four steps for 4 o'clock or 11 for 11 o'clock. This is when the strategy comes into play. You can take big or small steps to try and get past Mr. Fox, but you better watch out if Mr. Fox yells out "lunchtime" or "midnight." This lets Mr. Fox turn around and chase everyone into a game of tag. If you are tagged, you become Mr. Fox, and the game resets.