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How to make a nativity scene out of a shoe box

Updated August 10, 2017

A nativity scene, a small diorama which shows the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, is a traditional Christmas decoration. Nativity scenes traditionally show the Christ child lying in a manger, surrounded by characters such as Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and a group of shepherds. Animals such as donkeys and sheep also appear in many nativity scenes. A simple nativity scene made from a shoebox is a fun holiday project for children.

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  1. Remove the lid of the shoebox. Trim the lip from one of its long edges using scissors. Fold the lid in half to create the shape of a bent roof.

  2. Decorate the exterior and interior of the shoebox to resemble walls. Markers and coloured pencils may not cover over patterns or text on the outside of the box; if this is a problem, glue or tape sheets of paper over the images and draw directly on the paper. Do the same to the roof, giving it a thatched appearance.

  3. Stand the shoebox on its side with the opening facing forward. The box will act as the scene for your nativity display. Attach the bent lid to the top of the box with masking tape. You should now have a stable building with a pitched roof.

  4. Create characters to populate your nativity scene. Cut shapes from card and colour them in with markers coloured pencils. Leave a small tab at the bottom of the figure; fold this at a right angle and tape a penny to it. The weight of the coin will create a base for the card figure to stand upright.

  5. Decorate your nativity figures. Scraps of cloth can serve as robes or cloaks, while yarn can create long hair for Mary or beards for Joseph and the three wise men. Cotton wool can give the shepherds' sheep a fluffy appearance.

  6. Construct a small box out of card; this will be the manger in which the baby Jesus will lie. Fill it with small scraps of torn paper to represent straw and place the baby figure in it.

  7. Tip

    Always supervise children carefully while they are working with scissors.

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Things You'll Need

  • Shoebox
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Masking tape
  • Paper
  • Markers or coloured pencils
  • Card
  • Pennies
  • Cloth, yarn, glitter and other craft materials (optional)

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.

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