Last weekend we hopped on the Overground to Westfield Stratford City for a family day out. We chose to do bowling again, as our trip last year was such a hit with all of us (Arlo can still remember it!)
As with the first time we visited All Star Lanes at Stratford Westfield Stratford City, we had a really fun time, and we were once again surprised at how easy and completely stress-free the whole experience was, which is generally NOT what you expect from any activity undertaken with a three and a one year old.
There are a few things that All Star Lanes does to make the bowling experience really simple and easy for families:
Bumpers/barriers can be set individually for each player – Arlo and Rory had bumpers up, and the bumpers came down automatically for mine and Sam’s turns.
Children can wear their own shoes – a massive plus for fussy youngsters.
There is a children’s bowling ramp at every lane.
You can eat and drink whilst you bowl, ordering food directly from your laneside table.
One game for the three of us cost £23 (I didn’t want to pay for Rory as he’s only 12 months and wasn’t really going to play, but the staff kindly added him to our game for free anyway, as I had a thing about having ALL our names up there on the board) One game is plenty enough for this age group, Arlo’s attention had started wandering by the last two rounds.
A couple of important safety tips:
Watch your kids at ALL TIMES. Letting them loose around heavy bowling balls, you need to be careful. Especially around the carousel, which is at prime kid-height, and draws them in like magnets. The balls are heavy, and little fingers can easily get trapped in between balls as more balls appear out of the ball return.
Arlo likes to try to lift the balls himself, so someone had to be RIGHT behind him at all times to help make sure he didn’t drop one and cause himself an injury.
If you bowl with toddlers or preschoolers, make it a rule that children need to be seated at the table unless it’s their turn to bowl, and double-check that another adult is definitely on kid-watch before taking your own turn – When your eyes are facing forward and your arm is swinging back with a heavy bowling ball in hand, you need to be SURE that there are no small children running around directly behind you.
A lot of these are obvious safety tips, but some only became apparent to us on our first trip as we were playing, so I thought this could be useful for anyone considering going bowling with your young family for the first time.
All Star Lanes have a really great American Diner style menu, which we sampled on our last visit. Now, I can pretty much always be tempted by an extensive burger menu, and the kids menu holds everything Arlo would wish for in his dream meal, but as the sun was shining and it was such a lovely, warm day, we fancied stepping out into the daylight to try out one of the restaurants on ‘The Street’, Westfield Stratford City’s restaurant area, situated just outside of the main, indoor complex. Our lunch at The Real Greek was fab for the grown ups, as well as being something a bit different for the boys (although, of course there were chips too).
If you fancy seeing a bit more our day out at Westfield Stratford City, it also features in my latest vlog over on YouTube. (Yes, getting quite into this vlogging lark at the moment…let’s see how long I last). Skip to 2.40 if you just want to watch the bowling bit.
I’ve said it before, and I found myself saying it AGAIN to Sam on the train back home, but I am a TOTAL Westfield fan (We live equidistant from Westfield Stratford City and Westfield London and have visited both many times). I’m not even really a shopping fan, but I think since having the kids, Westfield’s shopping centres have continuously surprised me with how easy it is to navigate with young children in tow.
It’s no effort to push a buggy along such smooth terrain, baby changing facilities (or parent rooms, as they are called there) are ample and well-presented, with child-size toilets and sinks, and also a TV and play area to keep older children happy if you need to feed or change a baby. The shop layouts are spacious – no aisles too narrow for a buggy, there are indoor and outdoor play areas, all the restaurants are child friendly, and if the kids reach maximum boredom levels before you’ve finished what you came to shop for, you can always visit the concierge desk and whip out one of those push-along Kiddy cars as a last-resort entertainment tactic.
If you need to shop, it’s probably the easiest place to go with kids. And even better that you can combine shopping with a family activity – there’s something to keep everyone happy.
Our family day out at Westfield Stratford City was complimentary for the purpose of this review.