Ideas for playtime at school

  • Published on July 28, 2017

We generally think of recess as fun time for children. But it is not always so for those who find socialising difficult or for those who have trouble thinking of something to do.

Incorporating social and friendship skills into the daily class program has enormous benefits in preventing unhappy times in the playground.

playtime games

Happy and peaceful playgrounds can be cultivated by:

  • providing children with strategies for friendly play, including how to join in, participate, and allow others to join in;
  • teaching children activities and games to play alone or with others;
  • offering equipment to support those activities and games.

Peaceful playgrounds filled with happy active children contribute to a healthier, happier community more able to focus on learning during class time.


Being active contributes to children’s overall physical development, including gross and fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, and fitness.

Opportunities for introducing activities and games can be seized in many areas of the curriculum. In addition to the obvious; physical education, they can be slotted into the social skills or friendship skills program, or used as transition activities during the day.

maths game

Sometimes they can be worked in with maths or English lessons. If equipment is easily accessible in the classroom, it need take no longer than a few minutes to introduce an activity, a diversion which can aid concentration for the next learning session

The provision of permanent outdoor items such as pole tennis, basketball hoops, soccer nets, targets painted on walls and play patterns for hopscotch and other games on concreted areas contributes other opportunities for play. With a stick of jumbo chalk, children can draw their own hopscotch and play patterns.

This week I have uploaded a new resource Games for playtime.

games for playtime

Games for playtime includes:

  • ten activities and games for individual or group play, including Instruction cards for playing Sevens and French Cricket;
  • a checklist of suggested equipment;
  • a system to encourage responsible borrowing, including Sports equipment borrowing cards.

Activities and games for individual or group play

Included in the resource are suggestions for:

  • Skipping
  • Elastics
  • Ball games
  • Flying discs
  • Grip ball
  • Bats and balls
  • Ten pins
  • Hoops
  • Bean bags

The activities require a small amount of equipment which can be easily stored in a basket in the classroom.

A system for borrowing

Concerns about children not taking responsibility for care of equipment, at a glance, may seem valid, as damage and losses can occur. However, by teaching children games and activities that can be played using the equipment, showing them how to use it safely, and cultivating a sense of responsibility for the equipment and others, the incidence of damage and loss decreases.

sports borrowing system           sports borrowing card

The system I explain in the resource is one I implemented in my classrooms, and includes printable borrowing cards I made for the children.

  1. Children borrow one item or set (if they wish).
  2. They look after the item, play with it safely, and return it when lunch is finished.
  3. When they go out to play, they choose an item, and place their borrowing card in a pocket to indicate what has been borrowed.
  4. When they return from lunch, they return the item to the basket and remove their borrowing card from the pocket.

It is easy to check the items being borrowed and returned, and a quick glance at the pockets tells which items are missig.

I found children to be honest using the system and responsible in using and caring for the equipment. While an occasional mishap occurred, for example; a ball on the roof, damage and losses were minimal. The children were happy to have something to play with and to know a game to play with their friends, or to help them make new friends.

The system helped create a happier more peaceful playground, and children were more able to focus and happier to work when they returned to the classroom. Time spent teaching the games was a worthwhile investment.

The resource Games for playtime is available to subscribers. Subscription provides access to all resources.


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    I like your borrowing system, Norah. My two nieces could take a lesson from you. One has triplets with an older brother, and the other has quadruplets with an older sister. They each think they own the rights to every toy in the house. They need to learn to share. They need to learn respect for the rights of others. Your borrowing system seems like an ideal way to achieve this ♥

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tina. I wouldn’t have thought of using the borrowing system at home but perhaps, with a little adjustment, it could work quite well and help the children see benefits in sharing. I am one of ten and I can’t remember how we got on sharing. I think there was not much alternative.

    Your post reminds me how much we can teach in the classrooms beyond “test scores.” Cooperation, responsibility, sharing. And all the while enjoying it!

    And I tend to think those things are more important to a happy life that “test scores”. Thanks for reading and commenting, Charli.

    A great post, Norah. Children need to play outside and do physical exercise. They also need to learn to work together as teams. Can’t believe Debby’s comment that some schools want to take away recess. All people have limited concentration spans, even adults. Regular breaks to stretch your legs and clear your mind are vital.

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post, Robbie. It is very distressing hearing about schools limiting breaks in favour of drill and practice. I don’t think it will improve learning at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will have the opposite effect.

    Wonderful! They’re learning social skills that will help them be better communicators and have more confidence too 🙂 Great tips!

    Thanks, Christy. I appreciate your comment. We do agree about the importance of social skills, communication, and confidence!

    Great feature on recess Norah. So true that some kids can feel intimidated or alone, but for little kids, I think it’s important the teacher recognize those children and take them by the hand and introduce them around. Recess is an important part of developing social skills. Imagine in some schools now they want to take it away. 🙂

    Hi, Debby. Yes, I can’t believe some schools are doing away with recess. I wish more did what Finland does, and give the children more play time and more respect for the precious time that is childhood. You’re quite right that teachers need to introduce children and encourage them to make friends. While I didn’t specifically mention it in this post, it is very much an integral part of developing a supportive classroom environment. Sometimes I think I talk about that too much. But then, it is the foundation so probably can’t be talked about too much! Thanks for commenting.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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