A Better Way to Back to School Part 3: 5 Inclusion Ideas for Rainy Day Recess 

The air is getting crisper, leaves are beginning to change. We’re deep into the back-to-school swing now as September ebbs into October. Routines are taking shape! We’ve already discussed how to create an inclusive classroom to start the year off strong and ways to enhance your after-school programs with inclusive activities.

But what about the places in between?

When class isn’t in session and the day isn’t yet done, there’s a valuable piece of the day that deserves its own inclusive upgrade: recess. We’ve offered ideas on how to capitalize on outdoor free time when the weather is fair, but when chilly rains roll in, the spirit of cheerful outside play is replaced with yet more time inside. So, what can you do to take a rained-out recess from ho-hum to so fun? We have a few ideas.

The back of a child wearing a yellow jacket as he dives into a puddle on a rainy day

Extend the Education

Indoor recess days give you an excuse to go off script. Continue your lessons in fun, innovative ways that go beyond textbooks or standard instruction.  Try a game of Jeopardy to test your students’ knowledge, or invite them to write fictional stories incorporating things they’ve learned. Put on a video to provide a different perspective on a subject, or invent your own ways to gamify learning. 

Not only is gamification fun, but it’s effective. Students who learn with gamified content increase their overall, long-term retention. One study found that gamification increased retention by 12.23% and increased overall performance by 7.03%. Activities like these can reveal how your kids learn best, opening new opportunities to diversify your lessons plans for inclusion.

Children laying on the floor on their bellies drawing on white paper with markers

Rest & Rejuvenate

The best rainy day activity to include your whole group may be more relaxed than the typical recess. But we understand – you can’t simply say “everyone rest” and expect it to happen on its own. 

Guided Meditation

Instead, try guided meditations that encourage relaxation. There are plenty of podcasts that facilitate mindfulness and calm, while videos combine relaxing audio with engaging visuals to take students on a sensory journey. We even created a video on deep breathing that can contribute to the calm! 



And it’s a valuable way to maximize the rainy day. Meditation is shown to improve memory in adolescents, emotional intelligence in teens, and academic performance in students. In particular, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to improve mood and combat anxiety. Introducing students to the practice of meditation in the classroom can help them manage their emotions and establish calm anywhere!

Nap Time

Who doesn’t get a little sleepy when it’s dark and stormy outside? Giving students quiet space to sleep can be immensely beneficial, too. Especially for kids who don’t get enough sleep at home, taking brief naps at school can improve their concentration and memory


Save Something Special

Recess is a revered time of day, so when it gets rained out, your kids are bound to be bummed. However, there’s hope. Try to save certain activities specifically for indoor recess days. Plan out high-value, unique games that aren’t replicated during everyday recesses. Whether you set aside board games, songs and dances, or certain art supplies, the idea of an indoor day should feel like a treat rather than a consolation prize.

Arts and crafts ranging from beads and paints to smiley face stickers

Offer Options

Recess is often exciting because it lends a sense of increased autonomy to the school day. Playgrounds have a lot to do, and open spaces give kids a chance to be imaginative without the limits of lectures and assignments. When rainy days bring those activities indoors, it can seem like standard classroom limitations are inherent. 

Activity Stations

Setting up various dedicated activity zones allows your students to experience some of the freedom they feel on the playground. Whether they try out a few different activities or stick with one, the chance to choose will be appreciated!

Try adding a few of these ideas to your activity roster:

Sensory Bins

  • Kinetic Sand Dinosaur Dig – Hide little fossils or dinosaur figures in a bin of kinetic sand for an indoor archaeological experience.
  • Pom Pom Sorting – Add different colors and sizes of craft pom poms to a big bin. Put smaller containers labeled by color in the middle, and invite students to sort the pompoms accordingly! 

Art Activities

  • Guided Crafts – Provided seasonal coloring pages or painting projects with rainy day references. Focused projects reduce the number of supplies you need at a given time, too.
  • Freestyle Creativity – Or let your students choose their medium! Give them freedom to create with any supplies you have on hand.

Independent Options

  • Reading Nooks – Pull out pillows, cushions, blankets, and other cozy accouterments to set up comfy and quiet reading places. 
  • Flash Cards & Learning Games – Create materials for the kids who like to quiz themselves! Flash cards and online learning games are great here. Invite students to check out these items on their own, or with a partner.

Group Games

  • Puzzles – Get a group together to assemble a large puzzle. Anyone can join the group effort anytime, making it an excellent option for kids switching stations. 
  • Rapid-Round Games – Games that begin and conclude quickly, like Red Light, Green Light or Simon Says are simple to learn and easy for new players to join. 

Interest Groups

Take a poll and see what everyone likes. You’re sure to spot patterns in the results! Where there’s shared interests, there’s an opportunity to connect. Put kids into groups based on what they like, and proactively plan activities for them. This gives your kids a chance to make friends who enjoy the same things and dive deeper into their hobbies. Think about the possibilities: book clubs, improv groups, art collectives, sports teams… 

These groups can meet even when it isn’t rainy out, but rainy days give them extra time to talk about and do their favorite things.

A young girl reading in the library

Call in the Experts

While there’s still time to prepare, delve deeper into how the pros spend their rained-out recesses. Spring will be here before we know it, so now’s the time to tap into training programs that offer creative alternatives to outdoor play and help you maximize recess indoors. 


Playworks is one of our long-time partners. They strive to help kids stay active while building valuable life skills – a goal that’s connected them with 2 million students in more than 3,000 schools over the last 25 years. One resource they deliver to educators is The Great Recess Framework, which teaches the unsung pillars of recess success: 

  • Safety
  • Adult engagement
  • Communication
  • Autonomy
  • Inclusion 
  • Physical activity

This resource, along with Playworks’ other offerings, can reinforce your foundational understanding of what makes recess work well. Bringing those insights inside for a rainy day will ensure every student is included and engaged.


We know that a successful initiative – whether it’s recess, after-school programs, or summer camps – starts with a strong understanding of inclusion. The courses and resources that we offer help you and your kids find the fun in fostering friendships and celebrating diversity in all areas of learning.

These courses set the stage for a more inclusive environment at school, inside and outside. They build upon what you already know as an educator to deepen your inclusion efforts and enhance your empathy for the kids in your class. 

When inclusion is built into your education, every experience – even rainy days without recess – are worth looking forward to.


Make the Most of Every Rainy Day

Don’t let those gathering storm clouds rain on your parade. To create inclusive, fun experiences inside, all you need is a little imagination and help from your friends at KIT!