In the immortal words of Frosty the Snowman, ”Happy Birthday!” To kick off our lessons about Christmas, I started with teaching our children about Jesus’ birthday! Before we break out the tree and trimmings to mesmerize them, we start with the more humble beginnings of the holiday - a stable.
In previous years, I have meticulously set up the toy nativities for the kids. Then the kids would take over, play with the sets, and ultimately leave a trail of the pieces all over the room. This year, I decided to have the kids do the work for me. A nativity book was read to them as they dug out the main characters from sensory bins. I used black pebbles for two of them hoping to invoke images of the darkness of the night Christ was born. For the third bin, I used popping corn because I knew my two year old daughter would be more interested in scooping and pouring than searching for objects.
After the story was read, we discussed what each stable needed to be a "nativity scene". A manger for the baby, Mary, Joseph, and an angel were all volunteered. Various animals were named. It started with the standard barn/farm animals, but the three year old started naming exotic creatures such as crocodiles and dinosaurs. (He's clearly our class clown.) This was a good opportunity to review animal sounds with my two year old.
After all the elements were dug out, the kids each got to set up their own nativity scene. We had three this year; The Donkey in the Living Room Nativity Set, Fisher Price Little People Nativity, and Bible Toys Nativity Set. Each child had their own to play with and orchestrate.
My mother-in-law had brought a "Build a Nativity Scene" craft she had created. The kids opted to water color the stable and color the characters with crayons. Because it was getting close to lunch, she cut out the characters and they glued them to the stable.
After the craft and while waiting for lunch, the kids descended back to their nativity toy sets. Of course, this play started nice and orderly, but before long, new drama's were being acted out. The drama of a woman delivering a baby in a stable or the incarnation of God wasn't enough. Instead, wise men needed to be saved from wild animals and some Paw Patrol characters somehow infiltrated the stables. I didn't mind too much. After all, the main points were told about the Christmas story. As the years pass, so will the significance of the actual events of the first Christmas!