TWIN FALLS — For many children, recess is a highlight of the school day.

You may remember what games you played decades ago in elementary school. But what’s popular in 2017?

As it turns out, many activities haven’t changed much over the years. Some favorites are still soccer, tetherball, hopscotch and hand-clapping games. But some are a little different and more elaborate, such as a murder mystery game and playing tag while scrambling around on top of playground equipment.

And the most popular games vary from school to school.

Twin Falls School District elementary schoolers get 30 minutes of recess each school day — 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon — plus lunchtime.

It’s a chance for children to get their wiggles out, exercise creativity and hopefully, be more focused once they get back to class.

When it was time for afternoon recess Thursday at Morningside Elementary School, teacher Stephen Rahe asked his fourth-graders to stand up, push in their chairs and line up.

They filtered out the back doors of the school building. Pretty soon, they scattered among other fourth and fifth-graders.

Some were playing games, while others gathered in small groups with friends under the shape of trees.

“Marco,” one boy shouted while his eyes were closed. “Polo,” his friend responded.

Two boys sat cross-legged with their backs up against the school building. One was reading a book.

A playground aide wearing a neon yellow vest carried a megaphone and chatted with students, occasionally reprimanding a child who was misbehaving. Rahe was giving students high fives on the playground.

As recess came to an end, the aide blew the whistle and announced into the megaphone: “It’s time to line up.”

While waiting to go back inside, two girls were playing a familiar hand-clapping game, chanting in unison: “Down by the banks of the Hanky Panky…”

We asked fourth-graders from Rahe’s class to talk about their favorite playground games. Here are some of their responses:

Lady killer

Yasmina Sarajcic, 10, often plays a game with her friends called “lady killer.” Her cousin taught her how to play.

She and her friends sit in a circle. One person is the detective and has to guess who the killer is. The killer sticks their tongue out at other players to kill them.


Some things don’t change much over the years. One popular playground game is still tag, where one child is “it” and they run around trying to tag someone else.

It’s a particularly popular game among younger children at Morningside, said 9-year-old Quintin Vest. “They just run around and play tag. That’s just what I see them doing.”

Classmate Jillian Loya, 9, said tag is her favorite game at recess, too.

Tag has some interesting variations these days, though, including “bar tag.” It’s basically the same game, but done while on top of a dome climber-like structure at Morningside.

“You try to climb everywhere without getting tagged,” said Mylie Harrington, 9.

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Doing back flips

Quintin his classmates like doing back flips off the monkey bars. “There’s a bar you can put your feet on and just flip back,” he said.

Hand-clapping games

You probably remember playing hand-clapping games as a child. You’ll still hear some of the traditional favorites on the school playground, but there are some different variations too.

Quintin said he and his friends sometimes play a version where they blurt out words such as names of colors. “You just say random stuff out loud.”

Around the world

Kyson Bohrn, 9, enjoys playing a game called “around the world.” It’s a basketball activity where each child takes a turn shooting a basket.

If they make a basket, they move to a next place in a circle around the hoop. If they miss two shots in a row, they have to go back to the beginning.

To win, you have to make it all the way around the world and then back.

It may sound like a lengthy activity, but Kyson said there’s usually a winner pretty quickly.


During recess at Morningside, “the main thing is probably soccer,” Quintin said.

But students don’t play it much anymore. That’s because inevitably, the ball ends up getting kicked over the school fence and an adult has to go retrieve it.


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