Don't Touch the Nativity!

We have a rule at our house and just yesterday I was struck with what a silly rule it is. The rule is, don’t touch the nativity. All day, every day, I hear myself telling my toddlers, “Put Mary down. Put the wise man back with his friends. That sheep is not for riding. DON’T TOUCH THE NATIVITY!”

I like my nativity and the reality is that if I let them play with it, it is going to get broken. But I’m afraid what their little ears may be hearing is, “Don’t interact with the Christmas story. Look, but don’t touch.” Or rather, don’t let the story touch you.

I’m not saying we can’t protect our expensive nativity sets and Christmas decorations from little hands, but I think it’s good to remind ourselves that oftentimes they have an attitude toward Christmas that we’ve lost along the way—wonder. And that wonder can be squelched by us if we are too concerned with the appearance of Christmas and not concerned enough about getting the message of Christmas, namely the birth of our Savior, into their little hearts and minds.

So, here is a collection of ideas for celebrating Christmas kid-style. The focus is finding ways to help your children interact with the Baby in the manger this Christmas.

A Children’s Nativity
Get your kids a nativity that they can play with made of plastic or wood and help them role-play with it. Offer to be Joseph and let your little girl be Mary and act out the Christmas story. The next day, be the wise men. Encourage play using the characters of the most important story ever told. If you don’t want to purchase a nativity, make a set together using supplies such as baby food jars, beads, or construction paper.

Family Devotions Focused on Advent
We struggle to have consistent family devotions at our house. But Advent provides an opportunity for us to try again with a specific message in mind. Take some time each evening to sit by the Christmas tree and talk about Jesus’ birth. If your children are very young, this might mean simply reviewing the story and asking them some questions. If they are old enough to read, you might ask them to take turns reading the story from the Bible (Isaiah 9:1-7, Matthew 1:18-2:12, Luke 1:26-2:19).

  • Here is a free Advent Guide complete with family devotionals and discussion questions that you could also use.
  • Truth in the Tinsel is a great (and cheap!) little ebook that helps you talk about the message of Christmas all December long with your kids. Each day includes Scripture reading, a craft, talking points, and activities. Don’t let that overwhelm you. It’s simple, easy stuff best suited for your little ones.
  • A similar idea is Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Devotional. Each day of this twenty-five-day family devotional includes daily Bible reading, a read-aloud devotional for the whole family, a simple action point, and an ornament to decorate.

Advent Calendars
Advent calendars provide an opportunity for daily discussion about the true meaning of Christmas. There are several options for purchase available online. This year I bought one that allows my children to add a piece of the Christmas story to the manger each day. Yesterday, we put a tiny box of gold by a wise man and talked about the gifts that Jesus received after His birth. Then I asked my three-year-old what kind of gifts Jesus wants from him. Later in the day, Eli said, “I just gave Jesus a present by being kind to my brother.” Eureka! He’s getting it.

No expense is required for this option. You could simply help your child draw a part of the story on the calendar each day in December; or make Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, the star, the angels, and the animals out of construction paper and tape them on your calendar.

These are just some ideas to get you started, but the point is to find some kid-friendly ways to interact with the Christmas story this year. I’d love to hear your ideas for how you accomplish this at your house—right after I’m finished gluing the legs back on a sheep from my nativity.

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About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is a popular author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.