Rustic Wooden Children's Nativity Set

5:00:00 AM

Since the first Christmas that I had children, I have wanted to have a child-friendly nativity set. I believe that my children should have a hands on experience with the story of Christmas. I have 3 beautiful nativities that were given to me as gifts. The only problem with them is that one is unfired clay from Haiti, one is porcelain, and one is glass. None of these sets are really child friendly, and this mommy would love it if they survived to be heirlooms one day for my girls.

I know that there are a couple “toy” nativity scenes from Little People and Melissa and Doug. But I had something different in mind. I wanted my girls to be able to play with a nativity, but at the same time, I want it to look grown up and beautiful, because we all know that if something is played with in my house, it will be left out, right? I wanted it to be a decoration as much as a toy.

Last year, I took some wooden craft blocks and attempted to mod podge paper onto the blocks to make them into nativity characters. I stopped after only a couple of figures. I blame my lack of experience at the time with Mod Podge--I just wasn't loving the nativity. So the project was abandoned. This year, I picked up those same blocks to try to figure out how to make a nativity set that I loved. Fortunately, I was blessed in the last year to receive a Silhouette Portrait cutting machine, and so I had a new toy to attempt to make a nativity!

Here’s what you need:

Various size wood blocks. I used a wooden “whittlers block” set I picked up in my local craft store.
Chalk paint. I used Annie Sloan pure white and paris gray
Sandpaper to distress the paint
Paste wax. I used clear, but you can use the dark wax if you wish
Gold vinyl
Silhouette Portrait or Cameo
Brush for the paint
Brush for the wax (it will forever be your wax brush)
Soft cloth to buff the wax

Since I had put some paper on my blocks previously, I had to sand them to get the paper off. If you’re working with new wood, you can skip that step.

I painted my blocks with pure white, first.

Once that was dry, I painted them with the paris gray. I layered the paint so that when I sanded the blocks, I'd get a nice chippy rustic look.

I applied a coat of wax and buffed it lightly. I did this first to cut down on the sawdust when I sand, but also so that it starts to smooth down some of the roughness of the wood. Then, I sanded the edges. This gives them a rustic look, but it also serves to knock off the sharp edges and corners to make these blocks safe for kids. I lightly sanded the faces, but only to knock down any rough spots.

I added another coat of wax and buffed to a shine. Let wax set overnight.

I then found a nativity scene that I liked on the Silhouette Online Store. You can find the shape file that I used here.

First, I scaled everything down to approximately the size I needed.
Then, I ungrouped the file and deleted the shapes I wasn’t going to use (the donkey, the text, etc).

Then I regrouped everything again into two groups: the wise men and their camels (I duplicated the camel so I could have two) and everything else. Because of the wood I had on hand, I didn’t have enough to make every character their own block. So since the story of the wise men happens much later, when Jesus is a toddler, I made them small enough to fit on one block. They were really far off…J

The rest of the shapes I tweaked a little (why does Joseph have a shepherd’s staff?) but mostly, I just scaled them down so they fit on the blocks.

Then I let my Silhouette do its magic.

All that was left was to weed out the extra vinyl and apply the vinyl to the blocks.

I love the look of this nativity.

And even better, I know that this project was a success. How? As soon as I finished photographing this project, my oldest started playing with the nativity (I had told her that it was for her and her sisters). It makes my heart feel good that they finally have a Christmas decoration that isn’t “look and don’t touch” and even better that it is a nativity!

Note: This nativity is not for kids that are still chewing on stuff. I don't think you're supposed to consume the paint, wax or vinyl in this project.)

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