Homemade Bowling!

Cost of making this homemade bowling set? Negligible. Seeing that excitement and anticipation--priceless!

We have dozens of empty water bottles at home, and rather than sending them to the recycling center, I decided to convert them into homemade bowling pins. We had hours of fun with these—even Daddy joined in! We played this out back, but with some firm ball-use rules in place, you can take this game indoors too.

I never played bowling—actually I did once and it involved a gutter ball in the next lane, lots of tears and other components of a traumatic childhood experience—so pardon the wrong terms, if any. And hey, this is improvised backyard bowling (I’m not being defensive at all).

Age Group: 3+ (though one-year-old Breeze enjoyed it in her own way—by swiping bottles and running away with them)

Preparation needed: you will need to gather materials (most are readily available), and safeguard your workspace and clothes against spills and stains.

Difficulty of preparation: it’s a breeze!

Time needed: if you’ll do it by yourself, 10 minutes, tops. If you get your kids involved, it could take all afternoon, especially if they like playing with water and mixing colors.

Materials Needed:

  • 10 empty clear plastic bottles of uniform size (you can make more; we made 12—10 for the bowling pyramid and 2 for Breeze to play with. If we made 15 we could’ve had a bigger pyramid)
  • Clean tap water
  • Food coloring (chose this over paint, since Breeze was around and she likes putting everything in her mouth)
  • Rubber ball
  • Newspapers, rags and an apron or old shirt for your kid

What to Do:

  1. Line your workspace with newspapers and have rags handy to mop up any spills. Or, do what we did—worked outside on the kids’ hardy plastic table.
  2. Rinse out the bottles well and then fill halfway with water. This helps keep the bottles stable.
  3. Add food coloring to each bottle in desired combinations. This was Raine’s favorite part. It would be a good idea to let your kid wear an apron. I remembered too late and Raine got some food color squirts on her shirt. But it did wash out eventually.
  4. Cover each colored bottle well. I wouldn’t advise sealing them permanently, since The Hubby says the water will eventually get slimy and will need to be replaced. Besides, Raine enjoys the coloring process and replaces the water every few days.

How to Play (the way we do—but you can make your own rules):

  1. Arrange the bottles in a 4-3-2-1 formation.
  2. Mark off the throwing/rolling point—nearer for younger kids.
  3. Stand behind the throwing line. Toss or roll the ball. Raine prefers tossing the ball to rolling it, so it isn’t bowling in the traditional sense.
  4. Either one player keeps trying until all the pins are knocked down, and you just count how many tries it took, or players take turns and the first to knock down everything wins. That’s it!

Other Stuff You Can Do:

  • Practice counting. Count the bottles, the turns, the number of drops it takes to make a particular shade, the number of steps from the tossing line to the pins…lots of ways to get some counting practice in.
  • Have fun with colors. Great way to learn that all colors mixed together produce and unappealing, murky color.
  • Teach green living. I think this is a great opportunity to teach Raine about the importance of recycling, conserving resources and protecting our planet.

Any other ideas you have to recycle empty plastic bottles?



  1. Raine Hermoso Prudente says

    Oh I remember that one…

  2. Fun, huh? 😀

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