Play Plan: Baby and Toddler Bowling Activity

Bowling

There is so much learning that comes with play during the toddler years. One of our favorite cheap and simple toddler play plans at home was bowling using items from the recycle bin. This bowling activity is perfect for babies and toddlers who love to knock things down!

Using toddler bowling to teach taking turns

Bowling is a great activity to help little ones learn about taking turns. When our oldest little guy turned two, we constantly had to reinforce the idea of sharing and taking turns.

Nothing worse than the feeling you are nagging your child!

To make learning fun, and set us up for success, I thought I would make taking turns a game for him with a bowling play plan.

Bowling is exceptional for taking turns with a toddler because once he knocks down the pins he runs over to set them up again. Setting the pins back up will require concentration not to knock over the other pins for your toddler. While he is focused on resetting the game, you get in position to roll the ball next. It gives you the opportunity play before he has a chance to realize he even allowed you to do so. Taking turns becomes the norm!

cheap indoor toddler activity bowling

How this toddler bowling activity worked in our home

I set up the pins and gave the ball to my son instructing him to roll the ball to the pins.

(Warning: if you say, “knock down the pins” instead of “roll the ball to the pins”, you will probably have a child running over to knock the pins down with his hands and feet rather than the ball.)  

Once the ball has been rolled to knock down the pins, your child will probably already be chasing the ball toward the pins. If not, ask him to come over and set the pins back up.

It will require concentration and focus for your toddler to do this task without knocking over the other pins. You may have some interesting pin formation when your toddler sets up the pins which is great for observing cause and effect as he will see closer pins fall over.

hand eye coordination toddler activity bowling

While your toddler sets up the pins, you get in position to take a turn.

As soon as the pins are ready, I say, “Now it is my turn,” and I roll the ball. He cheers as the pins fall and then eagerly begins setting them up again.

This time when the pins are ready, I say, “Now it is your turn,” and he runs to the ball and takes his turn.

We repeat this process until we are done playing. If he starts to grow weary of the game I suggest a change in the way the pins are stacked or change the way we are moving the ball. Some favorite ways to move the ball toward the pins were to kick the ball, push with only one hand and rolling through your legs. Each variation added a challenge to the simple game.

Bowling activity with a baby

When we started bowling with our younger son he was just past his first birthday. When playing with a one year old, this game was more about working on the gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

When I played with him, I did not attempt to take a turn, but rather focused on getting him to move the ball in the direction of the pins.

He loved the gratification of knocking down a pin and having us cheer together at his success.

baby enjoying bowling game

Additionally he enjoyed the reactions of cause and effect first hand as he would knock down the pins with his hands. This is all apart of the exploration of the materials and typically once he’s done this a few times he’s ready to bowl again.

With baby this game works best if you roll the ball back to the starting point while you set up the pins. This gives the little one something to play with for those few seconds as you reset the game. Reducing the pins helped to keep his attention as well so feel free to use only one pin or as many as you’d like.

Reuse items from the recycle bin for bowling!

Having two little boys who love to eat, we went through a great deal of Gerber Puffs in the first few years.

The containers puffs come in are great for art projects and storing supplies in a travel bag. The shape of the puffs container has always screamed “bowling pin” to me, so that is how they are most often used in our home.

Don’t have puffs containers? No problem! Be creative with materials on hand for your pins: toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls cut in half, plastic cups, etc.

using simple recycled materials for toddler bowling activity

Simple materials for a great play plan!

Bowling was always one of my go-to activities as a stay at home mom of a toddler and baby. I loved that they were learning to take turns while working on gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  

Using simple materials from the recycle bin we easily created a baby and toddler bowling activity that is a great way to get the entire family involved in play!

Objectives:

  • social skills: taking turns with parent and/or sibling during activity
  • cognitive development: experiencing cause and effect
  • physical skills: gross motor skills (rolling/kicking); fine motor skills (setting pins back up); hand-eye coordination
  • engaged senses – touch and sight

Materials:

Differentiation ideas:

  • kick the ball instead of rolling (or use a Twister game spinner to identify which hand/foot to use with the ball)
  • stack pins or arrange in different patterns to see varying cause/effect
  • add more pins for older children

Level of mess:

  • Clean


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