Indoor Recess Ideas for the Special Ed Classroom

As a Special Education Teacher, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep our students entertained when the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor recess. It’s a good idea to have a few backup ideas for indoor recess ready to save your sanity on a rainy or snowy day!

Indoor Recess Ideas for the Special Ed Classroom
Indoor Recess Ideas for the Special Ed Classroom

We don’t want to resort to extra iPad time if we can help it, and we certainly want students to practice their communication skills and interact with one another. We also know we want the room to be orderly and at least semi-put back together at the end of recess.

But I get it… we are all so busy that it’s hard to come up with unique ideas on the spot. I completely get it.

That’s why I am here to share 11 easy, fun, and inexpensive ideas that can be implemented in your classroom. I hope your students love them as much as mine did!

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Activities for Indoor Recess

Stacking Cups

Cup stacking can make a great activity in the classroom. For best results, choose sturdy, large plastic cups to make it easier for students who are working on dexterity. Create a pattern for the students to follow, such as a classic pyramid or rectangle. Or, let the students use creativity to build a tower of their own design.

Foam or paper cups can sometimes be problematic if they get crushed or damaged by the students. But they’re relatively inexpensive, like these plastic ones.

What’s even more fun is that Cup Stacking is actually a sport… pull up some videos on the Internet to let students watch the athletes in action. Students can then use a timer to track how fast they are!

Snowball Toss Game

Another way you can use the cups is by creating a snowball toss game… and you’ve got so many no-prep options here!

First, set up the cups in a cluster to create a triangle or square. Then, have the students toss large cotton balls to aim for the open cups. You can designate a points system based on where the cups are situated in the cluster.

Or you can set the cups up in a bowling ball formation and have students throw the cotton balls into the cups. Designate a points system, or write sight words on the cups to practice those literacy skills.

A third option, to differentiate or try something different, you can cut the bottom off of a cup, cut the top off of a balloon, and put the balloon over the bottom of the cup. Tie the balloon tail to create a knot for students to hold on to. Put a pom ball inside the cup, pull back the balloon tail, and launch that pom ball at the cups.

You can even use different sizes of pom balls to see which balls launch the farthest. That would make for a little friendly competition!

Michelangelo Painting

A blank canvas and colorful paint can be the perfect way to encourage creativity in the classroom.

Set each student up with a large piece of butcher paper or art paper and some paint in small cups or baby food jars.

For some students, you can tape the blank paper to the bottom of a desk or table in the classroom and let students paint upside-down. You can easily use finger paints too, or markers if you’d like less cleanup.

CLEAN-UP TIPS: Don’t forget to put down newspaper to help with fast, easy cleanup. It’s also a good idea to use aprons to reduce the risk of paint getting on the student’s clothing.

Balloon Toss

Brighten up the room with a few colorful balloons! Blow up the balloons so that they can be used as a ball to volley back and forth between students. Make it a game to see how long the balloon will stay in the air before it hits the ground.

Non-ambulatory students will have a blast with this activity as well!

Paper plates make great paddles so that the students can use something to bat at the balloons.

Brr. It's cold outside. Yuck. Maybe it's raining. Indoor recess ideas for the special education classroom. Learn more at Mrs. D's Corner.

Dance Party

Turn on an upbeat song and dance to work out the wiggles. Play a CD or hook your cell phone up to a speaker to play some fun music.

If you have students who love to dance or are wanting to incorporate more music into your self-contained classroom, Musical Brain Breaks are sure to be a class favorite. Debi says, “My students love love love them! They take the guesswork out of how to participate, and they are getting valuable exercise in the process.”

A dance party is usually best for short bursts, for no more than 5 or 6 minutes (one or two songs). Then, you can move into a calmer activity after the dance party to make the transition from indoor recess to academics easier.

Brr. It's cold outside. Yuck. Maybe it's raining. Indoor recess ideas for the special education classroom. Learn more at Mrs. D's Corner.

Hot and Cold Game

Higher functioning students may have fun being the “finder” in a silly game of hot and cold.

Have a student step into the hallway while the rest of the students hide an object in the room. When the student comes back into the room, use visual cues such as “warmer, hot, colder, or cool” based on the student’s proximity to the hidden object.

Students might even have a lot of fun hiding an object from the teacher or paraprofessional!

Puppet Show

Have a few hand puppets that can be used to tell a story. The students can take turns participating in the puppet show and watching the shows that are put on by other students. It is helpful to have a teacher or aide narrating the story while the students use the puppets to act out the scenes. Choose basic, familiar stories such as Red Riding Hood, the Three Bears, or other classics.

Blocks or Legos

Building time with LEGOs or blocks can be an effective way to capture the attention of everyone in the room.

Divide the blocks among students or small teams, or work together if you have big blocks that can accommodate group interactions.


A classic game of hopscotch is fun and entertaining for Special Education students. Use masking tape on the floor to create a hopscotch pattern. Another option is to keep a hopscotch mat in the room or use other objects, such as hula hoops, to make patterns where the students should step.

Paper Airplane Toss

Help the students make paper airplanes, then have the students use art supplies to color the planes. Next, line everyone up for a competition to see how far the planes will fly. Lay down a few lines with masking tape or ribbon so that the students have a place to stand. Consider adding extra elements, such as colored paper on the wall as a target or a hula hoop to throw through.

Board Games

This one might sound like a given, but it can be difficult to find a game that fits the needs of your students… as well as a game that captivates the attention of your students.

Hasbro Gaming has teamed up with Mensa for Kids to bring back some of my favorite childhood games, and I couldn’t be more excited to add these to the classroom this year.

Board games are great for practicing critical thinking, focus, self-expression, visual reasoning, communication, and hand-eye coordination… just to name a few.

Grab the games here: Mouse Trap / Perfection / DownSpin / Sculpt It!

Doodling and Drawing

Coloring, doodling, and drawing are always kid favorites for indoor recess. If your students need a bit of inspiration or direction, break out these directed drawing activities to give them ideas!

Card Games

Simple games like Go Fish and WAR are fun ways to pass the time during those cold, rainy days. All you need is a pack of playing cards and a few eager players.

Chenille Stem Creations

Don’t save those chenille stems for just craft time; break them out for indoor recess days too! Students can twist and bend them to make all sorts of creative figures and contraptions.

Pretend Play

Depending on the age of your students, pretend play time is a fun addition to indoor recess. Cash registers, veterinarian play sets, cooking areas, and more can all be used to break up the monotony of the indoor day.

Indoor Gross Motor Toys

Indoor gross motor toys are perfect for rainy-day recess! Some ideas include a small slide, scooter boards, a tunnel, a small basketball hoop, a bean bag toss, bowling, and stepping stones. You could also use some painter’s tape to create a balance maze on the floor as an inexpensive alternative!


Pretend play is so important for kids! Having a dollhouse and a set of small dolls is a great way for kids to get their imaginations going during indoor recess.


Yoga is such a wonderful activity to help calm students’ central nervous systems while getting them moving at the same time. From balance practice to quiet meditation, a yoga session is perfect for getting out the energy during those indoor recess periods.

Bubble Machine

Want to create a bit of magic? Break out the bubble machine and turn your classroom into a bubble-catching paradise.

Prepare in Advance

You can’t always predict when you will have a rainy day. So, the best thing that you can do is prepare in advance with the supplies that are needed for these indoor recess activities. It is easy to adapt to a changing school schedule when you have these easy Special Education activities for your classroom!

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What activities do you have ready for indoor recess days?




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