This turned out to be a fun activity, and my little one has been asking for the beans every day now!
I found that doing beans on the floor on top of a blanket works the best (although you can tell from the picture that a slightly larger blanket would be better!) When play is done we can fold up the blanket and pour the loose beans back into the box. The kid's favorite tools for bean play:
-measuring cups and spoons
-plastic containers (to fill and pours from)
-mini cars and excavators