Advent is right around the corner and it’s that time of year when children’s ministry folks go into crafting high gear. There are so many wonderful ways to help children form their first ideas about angels, shepherds, the holy family, and baby Jesus through creating vibrant artwork and crafts. I find the longer I work in children’s ministry, the more I want to create crafting and art activities that are sustainable. A few years ago we added “creating a nativity scene from wooden peg people” to our annual Advent fair on the first Sunday of Advent. It went over so well that we improvised on the idea and included “creating a nativity made from recycled wood blocks,” too.
The peg people nativity is a simple craft that can easily be made. We purchased a big bag of inexpensive wooden peg people online. The rest of the bibs and bobs came from our crafting closet—bits of yarn and ribbons for head pieces and hair, fabric to wrap into colorful clothes for the characters, paints and markers to color faces and details on each person, and glue, lots of glue, to fasten it all together. We found that some of the wonderful old fabric that had been languishing for years in the closet made wonderful shepherd outfits, and that gold ribbon was a must-have for beautiful peg angels. We also let the children have wood stain markers and encouraged them to color the pegs in different shades to reflect the variation of skin tones and backgrounds of the peg people in their nativities.
The scenes ranged from some that were as simple as a Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus to sets from prolific child artists that rivaled some of the most detailed creche scenes sold at Christmas markets around the world. My favorite included many villagers, the innkeeper, a fisherman, several other families, and a host of animals created from the pegs, too.
In the same vein the nativity created from children’s wood blocks was a simple and lovely way to reimagine the craft. We asked our congregation to donate old blocks that they no longer used. We washed them up and prepared them for crafting. We purchased stickers depicting the holy family, animals from the manger, stars, shepherds, and angels. The kids were given a chance to pick their blocks and then decoupage the stickers on to each block. The result is a nativity that is easy for small hands to use, vibrant in color, and virtually indestructible. The stickers were a nominal cost, but the project overall is very inexpensive.