Nativity Small World Play Scene: Bethlehem

We're big fans of small world play scenes in our house, & as Minnie is keenly exploring the Nativity story during Advent it seemed appropriate to make a Nativity themed scene. We created a junk model version of Bethlehem town as it gave us an opportunity to explore Mary & Joseph's journey, not just their arrival at the stable.

To make the buildings for our scene we used:
Small recycled cardboard boxes
Masking tape
White & yellow paint or cream paint
Salt or sand
Brown paper (or wrapping paper)

We chose a selection of small boxes & wrapped them up in paper, securing them with masking tape.

Once all the boxes were covered, we mixed our yellow & white paint to create a sandy colour. To create a grainy stone like texture for our buildings we added table salt & mixed well into the paint. (Alternatively you could use play sand which would create the same effect.) Minnie enjoyed applying  the grainy paint to the boxes & exploring the texture with her fingers! When the boxes were painted we left them to dry over night.

The rough texture of each box felt just like a rough stone wall. For our shutters & doors we used recycled brown paper & attached using double sided tape.

We pinned up a navy bed sheet to create a night backdrop for our town, & stuck on a few stars we had cut for a previous craft.

And for that special bight star Minnie added the 'Twinkle Twinkle Star' from her room & attached with sticky tape.

Our Bethlehem scene was ready! We had just got it set up when a young couple with a donkey arrived in town!!

Minnie has enjoyed moving Mary & Joseph around this play scene, & continued their journey around the living room. As she plays with them she recounts the Nativity story, adding a few extra details here & there! For example I never knew the houses in Bethlehem had doormats outside, or that Mary had snack stops along the journey to eat grapes! ;-)

The donkey has galloped, & danced, & had a beautiful rendition of 'Horsey, Horesy' sung to him! With the help of Minnie's balancing skills he's even carried Mary on his back!

Minnie's creativity, imagination & storytelling have been a joy to observe, & I love watching her engage with the Nativity story in a way which is relevant to her!

We're leaving this play scene up to be explored over the next few weeks, & we'll be adding more figures as we explore the story. You might also like the stable & shepherds hillside we made to complete our Nativity Scene. 


  1. What a great idea and a lovely way to see the imagination develop. I'm pinning this for use in the future. Thank you

  2. how gorgeous! much more delicious than ours I must say! I think we will need to add some Bethlehem houses asap! I love that Mary stopped for grapes :-)

  3. The houses look so "real"! Great job!
    We love small world play as well and will set up our nativity scene soon :)

  4. This is probably one of the best children's nativities I've seen. So simple and imaginative!! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    Merry Christmas!

  5. This is gorgeous, I love the way it's made of such simple materials and looks amazing. It's such a pleasure watching them play with these small world play scenes and the details they add, like the doormats. Can't wait to see the Shepherd's hillside!


  6. i love how you created the buildings...very cleaver! thanks for sharing :]

  7. Wow this amazing! I love how you created the boxes, I'm sure your daughter had a wonderful time with this activity.

  8. Clever idea to use the horse from Melissa and Doug set. I think I might have to steal that.

  9. I love your small world Bethlehem :)