COVID19 Safe Back to School Activities

With much of the northern hemisphere about to return to school amid continued uncertainty about the current COVID19 pandemic, it is clear that many schools will introduce new hygiene and physical-distancing measures to keep students safe. In other cases, some schools may play it safe and adopt a home-based learning approach.

In either case, it’s all about keeping students safe at this time. In response, we have experienced a tsunami of enquiries asking about the best activities to use that (a) respect personal hygiene and physical distance measures and (b) are suitable for an online audience.

With a focus on activities that are fun and interactive and invite students to reconnect with one another, this article shares our Top Ten most successful adapted activities that welcome students back to school.


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Safe Back to School Activities during COVID19


Out top ten list is divided into two categories – those which can be played safely while respecting physical-distancing measures and those which can be presented online.

To learn how to play each of these activities, simply click the links. In many cases, you’ll view a short video tutorial to help you understand what the activity looks like – although admittedly, all of these videos were recorded in a pre-COVID19 era!

Nonetheless, they’re all free, 100% fun and will help you welcome your students back to school in a really fun and safe way.


1. Activities that Respect Safe Hygiene & Physical-Distance


While the following activities require few if any props, reducing the transmission of any virus demands that you consider how you manage the use of any equipment. As a general rule, consider giving every student their own set of equipment to use for the entire period (and do not swap with others,) or if this is impractical, collect all of the equipment at the end and don’t use it again for at least 3 days. Oh, and naturally, wash and sanitise hands at the beginning and end of your session.


Walk & Stop

This activity features what is possibly one of our most viral video tutorials that is sure to trigger bursts of outrageous fun. Start with a really large space to respect physical distancing and then be sure to ask your students to keep at last 1.5-2.0 metres (6+ feet) away from all others as they move about.

Poker Face

Once again, with ample space to interact and move around one another, this is a wonderfully simple yet powerful exercise that you students will enjoy but may also prompt a really valuable discussion about diversity, belonging and feeling valued. Sanitise your hands before you distribute the cards, and when you’ve completed the activity, be sure to store them in a sealed bag for at least 3 days so that you don’t transmit any traces of the virus.

Pairs Compass Walk

Invite your group outside to a very large and wide-open space. Form pairs and ask them to keep their distance for the duration of the exercise (which is pretty easy to do.) With time available, invite people to swap partners to perform this simple navigation exercise several times. In the context of developing trust among your cohort, this is a brilliant activity to introduce at any time.

Copy Claps

With your group gathered in front of you, spaced well apart, initiate a short sequence of claps which are then mimicked by your group. Repeat many times, with each sequence becoming progressively more difficult. Celebrate those moments when your group aced the rhythm and connect this feeling to what was necessary as a group to make this happen, ie collaboration benefits all forms of group work.

Making Connections

Unlike the video, simply invite your group to form a large circle with each person joining the circle standing at least 1.5m to the left (or right) of the person who made the statement. Your group is still aiming to form one complete circle and seek out commonalities as the activity progresses.


2. Activities Suitable for Virtual Audiences


playmeo’s online database of group games & activities has adapted more than 80 activities (so far) which are perfect for online or virtual settings. Don’t let the fact that your students can’t be in the same room as each other – it is still entirely possible to help them interact and connect with one another.

Try these safe back to school activities today!


ID Numbers

One of my favourite in-person ice-breakers that is just as fun online. Use the chat room or ask each student to grab a sheet of paper and write their personal series of numbers. If you have a large class, perhaps utilise the breakout room facility to enhance the sharing or keep the whole class together and invite everyone to share one by one. Either way, be sure to record a screenshot of the entire class showing their numbers to the camera at the same time.

Are You More Like…

This is a great get-to-know-you better exercise. In advance, share one or more “paired matches” with each of your students, ie via email or private chat room messages. Instruct everyone to write one item on a sheet of paper and then display it to the camera so the whole group can see. The game can then proceed as normal. Repeat this process many times to ramp up the interaction.


Think of 6 or 12 questions that would be fun to ask your students in the context of getting to know them. Avoid obvious/boring questions such as “What did you do over the summer break?” Rather, questions like “What is your favourite number, and why” and “Show us one of your favourite objects that appears in your room right now.” Then, arrange a random or organised way to take turns and you’re ready to roll (the dice.) The randomness of the dice keeps the interest high and it’s so simple to play. Don’t have any dice on you – just type free online dice in your favourite search engine and you’ll be good to go.

Playing Card Mixers

Most of your students can quickly lay their hands on a regular deck of playing cards. If they can’t, direct them to any one of the many free online playing card sites to be eligible to play. Then, armed with one or more cards, you’re ready to play. Invite those who find their match (or matches) to connect via the chat room or, if you’re particularly savvy, channel them all into the same breakout rooms.

Come To My Party

This lateral-thinking team puzzle is so simple, yet not so easy. Switch on the gallery view of your video conferencing platform, and you’re ready to go. Explain that you’re having a party and you want all of your class to join you – but, they have to bring something. Invite your students to type their responses into the chat room because this will make the solution more obvious to those who are still in the dark.


Want More or Need Help?


Would you like some help designing a list of effective and safe back to school activities?

Please reach out to us, we’re here to help.

If all you need is access to a long list of safe back to school activities – browse playmeo’s online database for 7-DAYS FREE – click the button below.


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Comments (2)

  1. hstaniszewski

    Hi Mark!

    I’m LOVING all of these activities! I’m a middle school teacher, and your collection of icebreakers/community-building activities are the best I have ever found!

    Many require some sort of physical contact, though. Is there any possible way to filter activities to show ones that involve some sort of social distancing? If they can be done in a classroom while seated, even better… 😛

    • Mark

      Thanks for your comments Heather, I’m glad you are enjoying our resources. In regards to physical distancing, yes, I get what you mean. Yes, it is possible to adapt many of the games, but not all. Presently there is only a Virtual filter on the database, but not one to identify those that keep people apart. My suggestion is, reach out to us and ask if we know of some ways to adapt some of the activities you are liking for the purposes of physical distancing.

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