Bingo is a staple of social clubs and church fundraisers. What begin in the 16th century as an Italian lottery became a phenomenon in America in the 1930s when game promoter Edwin S. Lowe hired a mathematician from Columbia University to devise 6,000 unique cards. Since then, Americans have played for everything from cars to multimillion dollar jackpots. Bingo can also be played just for fun, with cards whose numbers have been replaced with images or themed words.
Know Your Audience
When making cards, remember that players must be able to understand them. While a standard card has five rows across and down, children might prefer a simpler game: three rows each way for very young children, four rows for older ones, for example.
Select non-numeric themes that capture the imagination and interest of your audience. If the game is meant to be educational, make it informative as well as fun. For example, young children will enjoy matching names to pictures, so fill your cards with images of farm animals or pets, or try simple pictures that correspond to letters of the alphabet. Adults will prefer cards that challenge the intellect, so create cards that test players' knowledge of movies, music and popular trivia. On a movie card, each column can correspond to a different film genre, for instance. Or players can respond to questions by identifying the correct answers on their cards.
Numerous websites offer templates for making bingo cards. DLKT provides a selection of children's themes and card sizes. Super Bingo Card Creator focuses on adult themes. Visitors to the site can also fill in their own cards and print them out. Print-Bingo offers word lists and traditional numeric cards that can be customized.
With a little imagination, you can turn blank cards into miniature works of art. Use stencils to fill spaces with letters and symbols. Try freehand drawings or use computer graphics programs to bring your cards to life. Many royalty-free images are also available on the Internet. Download and resize these images to fit the spaces on your bingo cards. Images can be cut out and pasted in, or transferred directly to an on-screen card and printed out.
For an unusual twist, players can even create their own interpretations of answers to questions. They can fill in the spaces with their own drawings in an interesting variation on Pictionary and similar games. Players can decide together if the drawings "match" the answers.
Brian Adler has been writing articles on history, politics, religion, art, architecture and antiques since 2002. His writing has been published with Demand Studios, as well as in an online magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University.