5 Games We All Played at Recess

Growing up, there were few things better than the recess in elementary school, and there were few things worse than a rained-out recess.

Recess always seems to be taken for granted during our childhoods, as they tell us, “You’ll still have recess in middle school, it’s just called P.E.” But little did we know how they were lying to us.

“I don’t remember having to run a mile every week at recess in elementary school? This isn’t fun,” I’d say to my friends. “When do we get to play wallball or 4-square?” But games such as those never happened, and before I even realized it, my recess career was over.

In honor of elementary school recess and all the happy-go-lucky games that we played throughout our K-5 career, here’s a list of the top five games usually played in elementary school:


Heads Up 7 Up

Nothing can ruin your day as an elementary school student quicker than no recess due to a rainy day. But depending on your teacher, this didn’t always have to be the case.

Heads up seven up is a guessing game—more or less—and a great time for any group of kids stuck indoors.



Ah, yes, dodgeball. Oh, how I miss being young and holding grudges all day in class until it was time to unleash them on the playground during dodgeball.

Many elementary schools refer to this game by other names—to make it seem less cynical for the younger-aged group of kids—and alter the rules to make it a tad safer. At my specific elementary school, it was called Nation Ball. Why? I have no idea, but I still pegged the crap out of Zach D. every chance I got.

The great thing about dodgeball is that it is a timeless and ageless game. In both middle school and high school, dodgeball is a common P.E. activity or the focus of an extracurricular, after-hours tournament for fundraising. Hell, even at most colleges it is offered as an intramural sport!



Now if there was one game that could cause me to come in late from recess due to the game not being over, it was tetherball. In elementary school, tetherball was the go-to game for any two kids who had beef and needed to settle it.

The best part about tetherball is how simple it is; a single ball suspended on a rope from an upright post and the first one to make it wrap all the way around wins. One ball, one post, two players, only one winner—these games have been known to take up a full day of both recess and lunch recess, and sometimes even carry into the next day’s recess!



Ah, a classic. No game creates such commonalities between two completely different students on the playground than 4-square. Whether you were merely a third-grader among the big, bad fifth-graders, or a Safety Patrol member among the class president, it didn’t matter as long as you were good at 4-square and could hold your own.

4-sqaure was easily the most popular game at my elementary school and often there would be three separate games taking place at once. While there is often squares already painted on the blacktop, one of the greatest parts about 4-square is you can always draw a new court with chalk. This allowed for multiple games to take place at once so every one got a chance to play and can even lead to a tournament system taking place.



Another classic among the elementary school games, wallball was a true test of character. Were you the type of player to always play it safe and just make sure you hit the wall every time, or were the type of player who would make things happen and dive under a bouncing ball yelling “rainbows” as you barely slid under and totally scraped your knees in the process?

Either way, there could only be one winner and there was no telling whom it would be until it was all over. Most games went semi-quick, allowing everyone to play multiple times within a recess, and the rules were usually established at the beginning so there would be no foul play. Wallball is a classic game that my childhood-self will forever hold very dear to his heart.


Here’s a video about games kids play at recess!

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