As Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth, many schools choose to put on a nativity play to commemorate this important event in the Christian calendar. With a little planning and preparation the traditional nativity play, or a more modern version, is suitable for nursery children’s participation and makes for a memorable seasonal event.
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The parts of Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel, the shepherds and the Wise Men are essential for retelling the nativity story. Additional parts include the innkeeper and his wife, and Herod. Other nursery children will be animals in the stable including cows, sheep and donkeys. Very young children can participate as stars, holding cardboard stars covered with foil or glitter, or as additional angels. With a lot of children taking part you can set up a choir of stars and angels.
Simplicity is best as parents or other volunteers will normally make the costumes for a nursery nativity play. Make a tunic for Mary, Joseph, shepherds or Wise Men by cutting out two fabric “T” shapes where the cross of the T matches the child’s arm width. Sew the two Ts together using blanket stitch, cut out a neckline and decorate. Add a white headdress for Mary, leather belts and fabric headdresses for Joseph and the shepherds, and silver or gold cloaks with crowns for the Wise Men. If children are wearing makeup then ask permission from parents beforehand and get a volunteer to come in with face paints on the day of the play.
Props and scenery
The one essential prop is a Baby Jesus, which can be a child’s doll wrapped up in blankets for Mary to carry. The Wise Men carry empty boxes wrapped in colourful fabric or paper, or trays of small wrapped gifts. Don’t forget soft toy sheep and walking sticks for the shepherds. Draped fabric can serve as a backdrop, with a simple manger made from cardboard or wood filled with straw.
Music and narration
Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come all ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, Holy Night, Once in Royal David's City and Away in a Manger are popular carols for inclusion in a nativity play. Nursery children will not be able to remember all these carols so teachers often pick one or two for group singing. Other carols can be played in the background from a CD. Simple narration is best left to an adult, with the children acting out the events as they are read. For a more modern nativity play, purchase music and a ready-written script from a company like Learn2Soar.
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