Looking for a simple way to keep kids entertained at a birthday party? Have them compete in a bean bag toss.
You can play a basic toss game, where kids must throw the bean bags into holes on a plain-painted board, or adapt the game to fit your party's theme.
You can either purchase a bean bag toss set (compare prices) or make it yourself.
Make the Bean Bags
To make the bean bags, you will need fabric, sewing supplies (including thread, needle and scissors) and a bag of dried beans from the grocery store.
To make one bean bag, cut two squares of fabric, about four inches by four inches. Face the right sides of the fabric together, then sew three of the square's four sides either by hand or using a sewing machine.
Turn the square right side out, then fill the square with beans. Don't overstuff the square--you want the beans to jiggle a bit inside.
Fold the edges of the square's fourth side in toward each other, then stitch shut.
Repeat until you have as many bean bags as you'll need.
For photo-illustrated instructions on how to make bean bags, visit About.com's Guide to Family Crafts' bean-bag tutorial.
Make the BoardThe best bean bag toss boards are made from plywood, but in order to cut the holes for the beans you'll need some carpentry tools. About.com's Guide to Woodworking provides plans for making a tilted bean-bag toss board, also called a cornhole game board.
You can make an adequate bean bag toss board using thick foam board or an old sheet that's pulled tightly across a frame. Just be sure that the holes are a few inches wider in diameter than the bean bags, so the kids have a shot at scoring some points.
And who says you need a board at all? Just set up baskets, buckets or any other container and tell the kids to aim for those.
Adapting the Game
The great thing about bean bag toss games is that you can tweak them to fit your party's theme.
Throwing a princess party? Paint the game board to look like a castle and cut holes where the castle has windows. Hosting a pirate party? Make the board look like a ship.
You could also be playful with the shape of the bean bags. Make them look like sunshines for a beach bash. Sew on petals and say they're flowers for a garden party. Use red fabric with black dots for a ladybug party.
A reader once wrote in asking for ideas for an old-fashioned backyard picnic party for her daughter's fifth birthday. She ended up making red bean bags that resembled apples and a game board that was shaped like a tree, with holes among the leaves and branches and in the tree's trunk.
How to Play
The kids can simply compete against themselves, attempting to throw more bean bags through the holes each time it is their turn.
Or, one at a time, hand each child three bean bags. Give them one point for each bag they throw through a hole and have someone keep score. After everyone has had a turn, tally up the points and award a prize for the child with the highest score.