Ten pin bowling with young children

Ten pin bowling

Off it goes! Helping Little Miss push the ball down the ramp.

I’m always on the look-out for rainy-day activities that are not soft play. Don’t get me wrong, I like soft play for toddlers and pre-schoolers, especially now Little Miss is a bit older and doesn’t need me to go in with her (whoop, whoop say my knees!), but sometimes it’s just nice to have other options. Last year when my cousin came to stay in August and it rained nearly every day, we decided to give ten pin bowling a go with Little Miss and her friend (both just on 3 years old). I wasn’t sure if it would be suitable for such young children, but it turned out to be an activity that we all enjoyed.

Most bowling alleys have some sort of deal on over school holidays (and actually in term time as well). Do your homework before you head out to see what the best deals are. We ended up going to AMF Bowling in Bretton. Just note, if your kids are bowling, you will pay the full child’s price for them.

Bowling shoes

At AMF Bowling the smallest shoes are a toddler size 5/6 (22), however since December 2014, children are allowed to wear their own outdoor shoes. Adults, also, can wear their own shoes as long as they are low-heeled, enclosed and non-slip. So, no more sweaty, smelly bowling shoes! Although I have to say Little Miss LOVED wearing bowling shoes. I’m not sure what the policy on children’s shoes is at other alleys, it would pay to check before booking. And if you need to wear hire shoes, don’t forget socks.

The kids were fascinated by how the balls came back (watch little fingers!)

The kids were fascinated by how the balls came back (watch little fingers!)

What facilities are there for children?

Two facilities that add to the enjoyment for children are ramps and bumpers. The ramp can be used by children if they can’t throw the ball themselves. You just place the ball at the top of the ramp and push it down. The ramp is easy to move out of the way when it’s not needed. But the coolest thing is the bumpers. When I was young and went bowling, you could have bumpers, but they stayed up the whole game – that is, everyone on that lane played with the bumpers up. At AMF Bowling (and most other alleys I’m told), the bumpers are just raised automatically for those that need them, then go down at the end of that person’s go. You need to tell the staff when you book in that you want to use bumpers and for which players.

Bowling balls

The smallest ball is 6lb, and we did have to ask the staff to help us find these balls for the kids. But to be fair, they didn’t actually hold the ball (we carried it to the ramp for them), and I actually found it more effective to use a heavier ball. If your kids are older and holding the ball themselves, then yes, you may want to start with the size 6.

Let’s bowl!

We had six people playing – four adults and the two kids. And as already mentioned, we all really enjoyed it. The kids were quite fascinated by everything going on and genuinely interested in the game. I explained about aiming along the little arrows on the ground (not that it ever does me much good!) and being careful of the foul line. Both girls were excited about taking their turn and counting how many pins they had knocked down. Their enthusiasm did wane after about eight frames, so I was glad we just booked the one game.

My verdict

We had an enjoyable rainy afternoon bowling. It was more expensive than soft play, so not something I would do all the time. But as something that the whole family can do; it’s a winner. Keep an eye out on different deals, as I have seen weekday bowling for as little as £1, which does actually make it a very cheap activity.

Woo hoo! Mum (M) finishes tied for first place!

Woo hoo! Mum (M) finishes tied for first place!

All the important bits


AMF Bowling is in Sturrock Way, Bretton, Peterborough, PE3 8YF.

Car parking

There is a free car park behind the bowling alley.


Costs vary depending on time of the day and holidays. At AMF Bowling standard web prices start at £4.50 for a child and £5.50 for an adult. But there are deals for families, deals including food etc. There are often special deals in school holidays.

Eating and drinking

There is a café on site selling a wide range of food, from hot dogs, chips and garlic bread, to something more substantial like nachos, hamburgers and pizza. There is a children’s menu as well with pizza, pasta, chicken bites and hamburgers for £2.99. You can eat in the café or at your lane. There’s also a licensed bar. You can’t bring your own food or drink in.


The toilets are close to the lanes and there is a baby changing table in the accessible toilet. There are highchairs available in the café.


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