Every year from the time I can remember (and for years before that) on Christmas Eve my father reads the Christmas story straight from the Gospel of Luke while the kids act it out using my mother's homemade nativity set. She created this set back in the seventies when my dad was in medical school and my parents were broke. Out of plaster of paris, scraps of cloth, and toilet paper rolls, she created a family heirloom and taught her children - and eventually grandchildren - the wonder of the incarnation!
Don't you love Joseph's sideburns? It was the 70s. It's funny, but I never appreciated my mother's ingenuity and obvious talent until I became an adult and a mother myself. Speaking of talent, check out these other handmade nativity sets I found online:
Camille @ Make It Work Mom has a tutorial for this simple, but oh-so-cute block nativity.
Kim @ Life of a Modern Mom shows off the nativity set her grandfather and aunt made for her daughter Molly. Isn't it precious? Looks like a good project idea to pass off on the hubby.
In her post Kim mentions trying to find a good nativity storybook for toddlers. With the thousands and thousands of Christmas picture books out there, you wouldn't think this would be difficult! But I feel her pain. When Little Page was two, I searched high and low for a book that would teach her the story of the Christ's birth on a level she could understand. My favorite?
What God Wants for Christmas
The maker of Resurrection Eggs came up with a little nativity set and book that breaks down the story into seven parts, each represented by a box containing a character of the story. As you move through the book, your child can open a new box, place that character in the collapsible crutch scene and learn about the next part of the story. The seventh box is empty except for a mirror. What does God want for Christmas? Why, you!
The figurines are perfect for little hands to play with, the opening of the boxes engage little ones throughout the story, but what I love about this set is it's focus... not on animals or angels, but on the birth of Christ as Savior. His birth calls us to respond with the gift of ourselves, and this book presents that in a way young children can understand.
On Friday I'll share a few activities and books for preschool and older children, but here are a couple more nativity-themed books for toddlers...
Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate
The animals all know that Someone is coming to their house. They discuss it amongst each other as each animal helps clean and prepare the stable. In the end the holy couple arrive.
Although this is not a book that will teach the nativity story, it is a sweet and quiet Christmas tale that toddlers will enjoy. The block prints are beautiful and the story is simply but masterfully written. Use it as another opportunity to discuss with your child the birth of Jesus.
What Is Christmas? by Michelle Medlock Adams
A little on the fluffy side, this book first talks about all the things your child thinks of when you say "Christmas": presents and trees and lights. After highlighting all of these fun traditions, it explains that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus' birth. This is good little book to define Christmas and place perspective on the secular and sacred aspects of the holiday.