Christmas is such a magical time for children. It’s a time where memories are made that will warm our hearts for years to come. So each year, I try to make it special. This year we’re making our own recycled nativity scene!
For a Belgian girl living in New Zealand, it is a challenge celebrating Christmas in summer, away from all of our family! But I like a challenge and for the sake of my children’s Christmas memories, I set aside my feelings of homesickness and nostalgia and simply make it work.
We adjust our decorations to a more summer friendly style (no fake snow for us!), we sing songs, we do our Christmas crafts, go to the Christmas production at our local church and invite fellow ‘Christmas-orphans’ for dinner on Christmas eve.
Our little girl (who is now 4 years old) couldn’t be more excited and we’ve been ‘working’ towards Christmas since the beginning of the month.
Our first project has been the Christmas tree. I cut down a branch off one of our trees (that in itself was very exciting for the children), stripped it of most of the leaves and put in a hole I drilled in a tree stump. Then Miss Glitter got to decorate it and decided to put every single ornament we have in there while Mister T was on a mission to pull them all off wherever he could reach. Christmas music was playing on the background (hello there George and Mariah!) and we were enjoying a lovely little family moment. Miss G exclaimed it was the best day of her life. Bless.
Our second project is an ongoing one: our advent calendar. This year is the first year we’re doing an advent calendar and we (I) decided we’d do ‘an act of kindness’ each day until Christmas. It’s been great so far. It has made us aware of the little things we can do for others and it has opened up a number of conversations about why we want to be generous and kind to others. (And we really should be doing this all year around!)
Our third project is the one we want to share with you today: we made a nativity scene out of recycled materials. We have worked on it over a couple of days and couldn’t be more proud of the result. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.
Getting started with your Recycled Nativity Scene
Level of difficulty:
This the perfect craft activity that parents can do with their children. It definitely needs an adult or older child to do the more fiddly bits. Little children as young as 4 years old will love to help out every step of the way!
It took us a few days to finish it but I’d say this could be an afternoon project if you have a couple of hours of uninterrupted time. I’m thinking 3 to 4 hours, depending on the level of engagement of your little ones.
I didn’t spend a single cent on this project! The image below shows you the materials I gathered at the start. I didn’t end up using everything and the images in the ‘step by step guidelines’ will show you in more detail what we did end up using.
But here’s a quick list:
scissors, glue, cardboard box, piece of cardboard, toilet rolls, needle, thread, scraps of fabric, felt, paper, left over wrapping paper, raffia (straw), pencil, string, ribbon, little cardboard box, cello-tape, paint, paintbrush, …
Step by Step Guidelines
1. We found a cardboard box that would be big enough to fit a few people made out of toilet rolls + baby Jesus and his crib + maybe some animals. Then we decided to paint it a dark brown, doing our best not to paint it too well so the stable would look ‘old and worn’.
2. Once dry, I put the roof on the stable. I used a piece of cardboard and folded it in the middle. I placed a cardboard paper towel tube in the middle to give the roof a bit of height and to give me something to attach the star to later on. To keep everything in place I decided to pierce holes through the roof and the box and tie it all together with some string instead of using glue.
3. We then moved on to making the faces for our people: Joseph, Mary and the 3 wise men. I drew 5 circles on some more solid craft paper and let Miss Glitter draw the faces. We then glued them onto the cardboard rolls.
4. While Miss G was drawing her angel, I started dressing baby Jesus (cork bottle top) in some fabric scraps which I secured with some stitches. I made his manger bed from a little cardboard box that I wrapped in fabric scraps and I covered the inside with felt.
5. The star is a recycled bit of a fairy wand that I covered in felt. I simply traced the star on the felt, cut it out twice and sewed it closed with a blanket stitch. Easy. It would work equally well with a piece of cardboard, this recycled star just has a bit more volume to it.
6. After the star we moved back to the stable. We cut up the raffia to make it look like hay, covered the floor of the stable with glue and put the raffia on it.
7. We then continued working on the roof of the stable. I cut up a gift bag into small-ish pieces with rounded corners to make them look like shingles. It was a team effort by my husband and Miss G to glue them on in a semi-orderly way!
8. When the roof was finished I attached the star to the front by piercing a few holes in the roof with the needle and threaded it a few times in two places so the star would end up hanging from the roof. I then also carefully stuffed the empty space between the roof and the ceiling with paper. While I was doing this finicky work, Miss Glitter started picking out clothes for our little people.
9. Dressing the stars of our nativity scene was a lot harder than it should be. In hindsight we should have put their clothes on first and glued the faces on later. But oh well, we ended up cutting holes in the fabric to allow space for their (giant) heads. Miss Glitter had strong opinions about what everyone should wear. We compromised that Joseph and Mary would stay in their traditional browns and blues so visitors would recognise them but the wise men would become queens and would all wear pink. Deal.
In the background you can see the little angel Miss Glitter drew and wanted to hang up in the stable. It’s the angel that told Mary she was going to have a baby boy. “And now there he is!” Miss G says.
10. To cover up the holes on top of their heads we decided to make capes that we would glue on top of the clothes and then tie together with ribbons or strings or pieces of fabric. From time to time I had to hand stitch a few things in place. It ended up looking great!
11. Now all we needed to do was put everyone together, find some animals for the stable and some treasures for the 3 wise men (ahum, queens). Noa was thrilled with the result. She got to stay up late and have a little play with her creations before going to bed a very tired but happy girl. Mission completed!
Thanks for letting me share our project with you today. I hope you might find some ideas for your own nativity craft project. Although it took a lot longer than I thought it would, we had a lot of fun creating and it’s been really great spending such quality time with my little girl, who is already asking me what we’ll be working on next!
If you’re looking for some more Christmas craft inspiration, head on over to Pinterest where I’ve collected some great projects to inspire you throughout the season!
I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas! Enjoy the holidays and until next time,
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