Alphabet Bowling

Learning Areas:

  • Literacy
  • Movement


What is this activity?

ECSEL Standards

What skills are being enhanced? What knowledge is gained?


What do you need to prepare for this activity?



Step by step guide

ECSEL Prompts

What questions can you ask to promote ECSEL thinking and discussions?

Extended Learning

How can you extend children’s thinking?


Help to strengthen children’s emerging literacy skills and gross motor skills with this fun game!

ECSEL Standards & Learning Goals

What skills are being enhanced & what knowledge is being gained through this activity?

Emotional Identification

Children will be able to identify their feelings and the feelings of others throughout the activity.

Emotional Understanding

Children will be able to differentiate between emotions.

Emotional Expression

Children will be able to practice expressing their feelings appropriately during the activity with teacher guidance.

Emotional Regulation

Children will be able to practice controlling their impulses while waiting for a turn and playing the game.

Cause & Effect

Children will be able to connect their feelings and behaviors to a cause.

Empathy & Prosocial Skills

Children will be able to practice taking turns, sharing, and communicating with others during the activity.

Problem Solving

Children will be able to use context clues to figure out the best solution.

CASEL Standards

Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making


  • Alphabet cards (optional)
  • Large plastic cups or bowling pins
  • Marker
  • Painters’ tape
  • Soft ball (soccer ball sized)
  • Open space to set up and play


  1. Prepare for this activity by writing different letters (one each) on each of the plastic cups or bowling pins, large enough for children to see. Set up the cups in a pattern or cluster at an appropriate distance away for the children in your class.

TIP: Try setting up the cups/pins with enough space in between them for children to have one goal at a time to start. You can always change the set up if children need more of a challenge!

  1. Make a line on the floor at the opposite end of the letter cups/pins with the tape for children to stand behind, and set up the ball on the line. Have children sit behind the line to hear the instructions and wait for their turn.
  2. Tell children that today they are going to be playing Alphabet Bowling! The object of the game is to roll the ball towards the pins and try to knock down the cups. When they knock over a cup, they need to tell the rest of the group the letter on the cup!
  3. Have children line up and take turns aiming at the cups. Guide them with the letter cards as visual support to identify the letters they knock down, if needed.
  4. This game can be played in many different ways! You can have children try to knock down as many cups as possible like regular bowling, and have them identify the letters after. Or, you can use the letter cards to call out/show a target letter, and have children try to identify the letter first and aim to knock only that letter down. Or, be creative and make up your own way to play!

ECSEL Prompts

ECSEL Prompts are helpful questions & guiding statements you can use to provoke children’s thinking about emotions. These prompts are related to this specific activity.

Wow! You knocked over the cup on your first try. How does that make you feel?

I can see you have a big frown on your face. Are you feeling frustrated?

I can see that you are smiling, but take a look at your friend’s face. Are they feeling the same as you right now?

You did it! I can see you are feeling so proud and excited. How about we high-five instead of screaming when we feel this way next time?

I can tell you are so excited for it to be your turn. Let’s take a deep breath together to help you calm down so you can be ready!

Are you feeling disappointed because you missed the cup you were aiming for?

Great job passing the ball to your friend! That was a kind way to take turns.

Whoops! The ball went a little too far past the cups. What can you do differently next time?

Not quite! The letter you knocked down makes the “p” sound. What letter do you think it is?

Extended Learning

Use these questions & ideas to extend children’s learning!

For an extra challenge, turn the cups so the letters are facing away from the children and try these ideas:

  • Have children guess the letter on the cup they are aiming for, and see if they guessed correctly when they knock the cup over.
  • Allow children to look at the letters before turning the cups around. Test their memory by asking where they think the letters are, and then aim to knock those cups over. Did they remember correctly?

Try this activity in teams with group goals to encourage collaboration and teamwork, and help further strengthen children’s communication, problem-solving, and prosocial skills.

Preschool/Pre-K – Alphabet Bowling

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