Every year during Advent, my kids love to re-tell the nativity story with their toy nativities.

Re-telling and acting out a story is an amazing way for kids to practice what they know. If they can re-tell it through play, then you know they understand all of the elements of the story.

“Do you want to play dress-up?” My kids love to dig through their dress up box and act out different stories and situations.

I’m guessing that your kids also LOVE to use dress-up clothes and props to enhance their imaginative play.

As a speech therapist, I know that there are so many reasons why imaginative play is good for children’s development. I also know that we don’t often give kids enough time to really dive deep into their play stories.

Did you know that kids need at least 45 minutes of playtime to set up and organize their play story in their thought processes BEFORE actually getting to the heart of their imaginative play and growing their brain connections?!?

Even knowing this, I have to intentionally remind myself to let my kids have extended blocks of time for their imaginative play. One of the silver linings of this pandemic is having larger unstructured chunks of time in our schedule.

nativity story play props and paper figures printables

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, I may make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

The Christmas Nativity Story Play Props

Today, I’m sharing two printables with you! A full set of play props AND a full set of paper figures for the Nativity story of Christmas. PLUS a list of Christmas Nativity story picture books to read aloud with your kiddos.

I recommend reading several versions of the Nativity story to your children first. Then you give them the play props once they are familiar enough with the Nativity story to reenact it on their own.

Print these play props on cardstock for the best results. We taped our head pieces to bamboo sticks leftover from another project. You could even use pencils instead.

Then we punched holes in the sides of the beards and nose pieces and tied string to them (like a mask).

nativity story play prop

Join our Whole Child Homeschool Tribe below {it’s FREE!} for access to our Free Resource Library to get the printable play props for your kids to cut out and use for retelling the Nativity story.

Retelling the Nativity Story with Toys

We have 3 kid-safe nativity sets that we’ve collected over the years for our little ones to play with at Christmastime. They only come out in December, so they are kind of a big deal at our house!

The oldest set is one that my grandma made for me when I was in high school. Back then plastic canvas crafts were all the rage. LOL So she made a nativity set out of plastic canvas and yarn. It’s really quite cute and has held up amazingly well after 30 years and 6 kids. You can actually get the original pattern for it on Etsy.

We also have set of fabric stuffed nativity fiqures that my mom made for our kids when they were too young to play with the other sets. It’s just like this fabric panel on Etsy.

️Our third kid-friendly nativity set is a newer Bible Toys Nativity set. It’s similar to Little People in durability, but for older kids.

If you don’t have a kid-friendly nativity set, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I made a paper doll type of nativity set for you to print out so your kids can play the nativity story with the paper dolls.

nativity story printable
Get your printable copy of the Nativity Story Paper Figure Set that includes all of the figures from the story of Jesus’ birth in the Free Resource Library.

Not a member of the Whole Child Homeschool Tribe yet? Sign up in the pink box above for immediate access to all the {FREE} printables in the Resource Library.

Board Books for Your Littlest Ones

Good News! It’s Christmas by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley Each page turn in this book brings more Good News! And your little ones will love the rhyming verses.

Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck and illustrated by Felicia Bond has been on our bookshelf for the past 20 years and has been enjoyed by all of our children.

The Story of Christmas by Patricia Pingry is another classic on our board book bookshelf. It tells the whole Bible story of Jesus’ birth in a way that even the youngest toddlers will understand.

Traditional Nativity Story Picture Books

Twas the Evening of Christmas by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova. Another book by Mrs. Nellist, who is also the author of the series Love Letters From God. This rhyming book tells the nativity story in the same fashion as the poem, The Night Before Christmas, which is, of course, about St. Nicholas. There’s another similar book, Twas the Night Before Jesus, which also is a play on the famous poem, but we prefer this one for focusing solely on the nativity story.

Mary Has a Baby by Mieke van Hooft and illustrated by Lonneke Leever The cut and folded paper illustrations in this book are amazing! This is a sweet, rhyming story that your preschoolers will adore.

The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible for Kids by Brendan Powell Smith combines the nativity story with probably the most popular kids’ toy ever, Legos. Text is at elementary level so your Lego loving kids can read it themselves.

A Savior is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas by Patti Rokus The nativity story is told with amazing rock photos and minimal text Bible verses, so it’s best to look at after your kids are able to fill in the blanks. Would be a great way for your non-readers to “read” the story to you if they know it well enough.

Nativity Story Told From the Animals Point of View

One Small Donkey: A Christmas Story by Dandi Daely Mackell and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. This version told from the donkey who carries Mary will resonate with kids who feel too small for important jobs. Rhyming verse and sweet illustrations!

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Anna Dewdney or by Dianne Goode This classic book has been re-released with different illustrations since it’s first publication in 1952, but they are all good. From the author of Goodnight Moon, your kids will love this story.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman Mortimer the mouse is looking for a new home and thinks the nativity set manger will be perfectly cozy. Not a re-telling of the nativity story, but it is a Christmas book that focuses on Jesus.

Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer This was my 5-year-olds favorite! Humphrey is one of the camels that travels with the three wise men. One of the illustrations has my youngest son convinced that Humphrey is trying to pick up baby Jesus!

The Three Wise Men of the Nativity Story

The Story of the Three Wise Kings retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A classic story which gives names to the three wise men from the East who brought gifts to the young King of Kings. This book does accurately depict Jesus as a toddler, not as a newborn.

Federico and the Magi’s Gift: A Latin American Christmas Story by Beatriz Vidal. In many Latin American cultures, Epiphany (January 6) is the customary day to receive gifts–which are brought by the wise men.

The Visit of the Wise Men by Martha Jander and illustrated by Lin Wang This book is historically and Biblically accurate and shows Jesus as a toddler when the wise men visit.

More Advent Activities and Printables

Be sure to follow my Pinterest board Christmastime Homeschooling for more great hands-on activities and ideas for keeping your kids learning this holiday season!

Pin this to your favorite board so you can find it again!

Nativity story
© 2019-2021 Whole Child Homeschool