As famous child psychologist Jean Piaget said, “Play is the work of children.” Through play, children make meaning, imagine new possibilities, and make connections with their environment and one another. This Christmas, children are invited to explore the story of Jesus’ birth through imaginative play. Here are a few fun, engaging activities that families can do at home or churches can implement on Christmas morning.
You will need
- A nativity set. You can use one that you have in your home or you can invite your children to make their own. (Here and here are examples.)
- A Bible: Depending on the age of your children, you may opt to use a children’s Bible to share the Christmas story.
- A die (optional)
Ways to play with the Christmas story
Explore the story of Jesus’ birth through one or more of these interactive activities.
- Read aloud the story of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-20) while your children move the nativity pieces around enacting the story. (If you’d like to include the Epiphany story of the wise men visiting Jesus, also read Matthew 2:1-12). If your children are unfamiliar with the nativity set characters, spend some time introducing each figure before you tell the story.
- Ask your children to pair up different figures from the story. Imagine conversations the two characters might have with one another. For instance, what would a conversation between one of the shepherds and Mary sound like? What would they talk about? Some pairings you might like to try include:
- Joseph and a shepherd
- Mary and one of the wise men
- Joseph and Mary
- Mary and the baby Jesus
- The wise men and baby Jesus
- The shepherds and baby Jesus
- Roll a die and move each of the pieces based on the number shown on it:
- 1: Mary and Joseph comfort crying baby Jesus
- 2: The sheep make noises in the field (“baa, baa”!)
- 3: The wise men move one step closer to the stable
- 4: The shepherds speak to the baby Jesus.
- 5: The farm animals go to sleep.
- 6: All of the pieces move close to baby Jesus to tell him how happy they are he was born.
- Older children can add a second die to the activity. Have the children come up with movements that fit with each of the numbers from 7 to 12.
- Retell the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of one of the characters in the nativity set. Ask your children to enact the story using the nativity set pieces. Then talk about how the story changes based on the person telling the story. Repeat this activity a few times to explore how the point of view alters the story.