6 Old School Recess Games to Bring Back to the Playground

Hop Scotch? Four Square? Red Light, Green Light?

Looking for fun games to play at school? Something a little extra inclusive to get your students outside, team building and playing together? We have come up with a few retro recess classics that we should all be bringing back to the playground.

Retro Game Ideas for Recess

With modern technology virtually everywhere, it is no wonder that our students are out of touch with playing games on the playground. Classic, old school games do students some good! They teach them to wait their turn, tune into their competitive side, help build a team-like atmosphere, and encourage them to cheer on others while simultaneously learning how to be a good sport. 

The next time your students are running out the door for recess, consider gathering the gang and teaching them some of these old school recess games, which are perfect for any age and are fun games to play at school!


1. Four Square

All your students need is a piece of chalk and a kickball (and a little coordination). Draw four large squares and label them 1-4. Whoever is in square 4 serves the ball by bouncing it first and tapping it into another square. The person must allow the ball to bounce first before tapping it into another square. The game continues until someone hits the ball on the line (line ball!) or hits it outside the perimeter of the 4 square court. Then, students shuffle over from one square to another to become the server. A favorite among many students, Four Square, may be the ultimate old school recess game!

2. Bologna Ball

Bologna ball is baseball but played with a large, bouncy kickball rather than a hard baseball. No gloves are needed, and students can be tagged out, batters can get out on a fly, or the ball can be thrown when fielded to any base. Want to make the game super funny? Have the batter spin around in a circle 3-5 times before batting! 

3. Frisbee Golf

Set up a cone 50 feet away (to start) and give each participant a different colored frisbee. Students take turns throwing their frisbee toward the cone, with the goal being to reach the cone first, using the fewest amount of throws. Once students get the hang of the game and tossing a frisbee, move the cone father away — the perfect game for anyone with a large field to play.

4. Mother, May I?

One student acts as the mother and stands about 25 feet away from the rest of the students. Each student must ask permission to move toward the mother one at a time. Students will ask to proceed by taking a certain number of steps, hops, skips, or jumps toward the mother by asking, “Mother, May I?” If the mother agrees, the student may move. If the mother disagrees, they can refuse and give them an alternative amount of steps or method of movement to make. 

5. Red Light, Green Light

Good old fashioned Red Light, Green Light is a great way to burn energy and make many memories. One student can stand about 25 feet away and acts as the stoplight, standing with their back turned to the others. They call out either red (make no movement), green (run as fast as you can), or yellow (walk, but proceed with caution). When calling out red, the stop light student turns around and sends anyone back to the starting line that is still moving. The winner is the first person to reach the stop light, and they trade places. 

6. Hop Scotch

It is incredible how many students have no idea how to play hopscotch. With a piece of chalk, create a classic hopscotch board. Tell students to toss a stone toward the board to land directly in one of the numbered boxes. Students should hop through the board, skipping the square with the stone. They have to bend down, pick it up, and hop back on their way back. A fun variation for elementary-aged students is to time each turn to see who can complete around in the fastest time. Do not be afraid to get in on the fun and show your students how it is done.


Modern students today miss out on many fun games to play at school that many of us grew up with on the playground. Bring back these oldies but goodies for your students so they will want to leave the technology behind and hit the pavement with smiles and some simple items. 

If you are looking for more teaching ideas and support on ways to get your students outside in the playground - take a look at these outdoor resources, that cover a range of different ways to get your students outside and learning, from printable worksheets, arts and crafts to classroom tools and activities.

About the author

Heather Aulisio


About Heather

Heather Aulisio (B.S., M.S. Ed.) is a 5th grade math and science teacher. She has been teaching in a public school setting for 19 years. Heather has previously taught third… Read more

loading gif