My church has some sort of program or class almost every Wednesday night. As the staff was planning our December offerings, it was suggested that we could do a craft night for the whole family. We were also planning a nativity scene display, and thought it would be fun to help people make their own nativity scenes which they could add to the display. Well, guess who got to design the craft project?
I knew I'd like to use as many inexpensive supplies as possible for this project. Since I knew I'd have young kids and parents in this class, I thought it would be easiest to find something three-dimensional to be the main body of each piece. Some sort of box or tube . . . ah ha! Toilet paper rolls. Readily available and free, and easy to upcycle. Perfect.
My sample nativity scene looked like this:
I decided to give the people a simple head scarf and robe. I glued a piece of fabric onto the roll for a robe, leaving about a third of the roll uncovered to become the head. Then I cut more fabric for the head scarf. I folded the fabric to find its center, and then glued it over the area that I wanted to be the face. (Ideally, the center of the fabric should align with where you'll draw the nose.) I only glued it around a third of the tube. The head scarf can be easily trimmed if it's too long in the back.
You can see on Joseph how I gave the scarf a couple of folds, and then tacked them down with a little glue.
I found it easiest to draw the faces last. I used markers; some of the craft-night folks used crayon, or glued on googly eyes.
For baby Jesus, I cut a toilet paper roll in half. Then I wrapped the roll in a piece of fabric that was extra long, so that it would look like "swaddling clothes." I glued it at the top like a head scarf, but also under the chin. Again, I drew the face last.
The manger turned out to be easier than I thought. I cut a roll in half lengthwise, then used double-sided tape to connect the two pieces at the curve.You could paint it if you wanted. Some folks in my craft class glued yellow yarn in the top to create straw.
The animals were a challenge. Luckily, I had some fabrics in my stash that made great sheep and cows and donkeys. (Look for remnants at the fabric store or clothes at the thrift store that you could cut up.) I'd make big animals (horses and cows) with full-sized tubes, and cut them smaller for smaller animals.
I used chenille stems (pipe cleaners) for legs. Each 4-legged animal needs two stems. Cut them both in half, so that you have 4 pieces. Fold each piece in half, then twist the ends together to create one leg. Bend over both ends a bit. One end will be where you tape the leg to the tube, and the other end will be a foot. Feel free to add knees, too! After you tape on the legs, then you can glue the fabric onto the tube. The fabric will cover the taped portion of the legs -- you may need to cut small slits in the fabric to get it to fall where you want it. I didn't put a tail on my sheep, but it's easy to do. Cut a circle of fabric slightly larger than the end of the tube and glue it on for a solid behind on your critters.Then attach a tail to the fabric circle.
It was easiest to glue paper faces onto the bodies. I found some nice animal faces on free internet coloring pages, which I thought would be less stressful for people than to tell them to draw faces on their own. These were cut out and glued on last.
So there's the basics. I'm sure you can come up with shepherds and wise men and chickens, and you could even construct a little barn, too. Jane LaFazio has a great version of a toilet paper tube angel on her Flickr account. I didn't use paint because I didn't want to deal with the mess of a large group, but you certainly could. I hope you enjoy making your nativity scene as much as my students did on craft night!
P.S. Sharp scissors (preferably fabric scissors) are a must for this project. Parents, please help your little ones cut fabric safely.