Did you grow up in a household with a nativity set that was a cherished family heirloom?
If you did, you probably remember watching your mom unpack it each year shortly after Thanksgiving. As she lovingly nestled each piece into its spot in or near the manger, she might have told you about its history and about how it could break if not handled with the utmost care.
Perhaps, you also recall a few “Do not touch!” or “”Be careful!” reminders as the holiday season progressed.
Maybe you are the parent now doing the unpacking, and your own little ones are watching you. However, as we all know, children learn best through hands-on learning. There has to be a way to keep a cherished crèche intact while allowing our young kids to play with the people and animals that were part of that Holy Night so long ago.
There is. This year, why not add a children’s nativity set to your holiday decorations? With a nativity set deigned for little hands, your kids can “act out” the first Christmas, using both their growing knowledge of the birth of Jesus and their imaginations. Your whole family will enjoy the meaningful conversations and fun that result.
Not all kids’ nativity scenes are created equal, so we have put together a list of 10 of our favorites. Most of these are available at a variety of online sites as well as brick and mortar stores. For those sets, we have used an Amazon link for reference. In the cases where an Amazon link is not available, we have offered a different link. You’ll notice we have included sets in a wide price range, so hopefully you will find one – or even two – that fits your family and your budget. (The prices are subject to change.)
Kids and parents both love Playmobil for its detail and its lasting durability. This colorful and realistic nativity set is designed for children age three and up, since it does have many tiny pieces.
The nativity set includes Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, several animals, an angel, a shepherd, a stable, a functioning lantern, a palm tree, a shooting star and other fun accessories. The figures can sit, stand, bend and turn their heads. $62.99
Many parents have a soft spot for Little People toys. They are just so cute, and toddlers love them. This children’s nativity set is a popular choice that tends to fly off shelves around Thanksgiving time.
In addition to featuring the adorable roly-poly faces of Little People, this set features a star that lights up and plays the tune to “Away in a Manger.” The Little People nativity set, which requires three AA batteries for the star, includes Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, an angel, the Three Wise Men, several animals, a stable, palm trees and other accessories. $33.99
This hands-on children’s nativity set tends to sell out quickly, so you may want to look for it early. Packaged in a colorful and sturdy box that your toddler will dearly love to tote, this set features detailed pieces crafted from beech wood.
The set includes the stable, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus as well as the Three Wise Men, an angel, a shepherd boy and several animals. $49.99
Here’s a beautiful wooden nativity set that will stand up to years of hands-on play. It includes a four-piece stable that is quick and easy to assemble, the Holy Family, the Three Wise Men, an angel, a shepherd and animals.
The sturdy wooden figures are just right for little hands and imaginations, yet it has an artistic feel to it as well. $20.69
The enduring popularity of the classic TV Christmas special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” makes this set appealing for parents and kids alike.
Your children will enjoy re-enacting the first Christmas as well as the events of the beloved TV holiday special with this nativity set that includes Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally, Peppermint Patty and a manger with a cradle. $19.94
This children’s nativity has a whopping 17 pieces to encourage all kinds of imaginative play at Christmastime. It also comes with a small storybook that shares the story of Jesus’ birth.
The pieces, which are constructed of sturdy PVC, include Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Kings, two angles, two shepherds, several animals, the stable, a tree and a barrel of hay. $19.97
This is a great first kids’ nativity set for a young family. Be aware that Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and the angel are attached to the sturdy 5 inch by 6-inch crèche.
Little hands can manipulate the other pieces, however, which include the Three Kings, some animals and a shepherd. All the pieces are made of colorful, durable resin. $14.99
Here is a children’s nativity set you can feel good about buying for your kids. The colorful set is made with all natural bamboo and with water color- based paints, and it is packaged in all recycled material.
The sturdy figures are larger than you might expect — Joseph measures 4.5 inches tall – so they are great for small hands to play with and hold. You will enjoy using this set as a toy as a holiday decoration. $94.36
This cute little nativity set looks great on your mantel, but you can also bring it down for the kids over the age of three to play with on the floor.
Painted in natural earthy colors, the set includes a two-piece crèche as well as three animals, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men, a shepherd and an angel.
Keep in mind that this set, which is made of resin, is quite small. The crèche itself is 6 inches wide, 3 inches deep and 4 inches tall. The tiny figures range in height from 1 inch to 1.5 inches tall. $15.95
Here is a handmade, baby-safe children’s nativity set. This delightful portable set includes 14 soft figures that can be used as finger puppets. All the figures fit nicely inside the manger, which doubles as a tote bag.
You also can fluff out the finger puppet pouch on each one to enable the figure to stand. Everything is machine washable. $39.99
Here is an option if you are short on space or are traveling for the holidays. This kids’ nativity set by Wee Believers features large colorful magnets, ranging in size from 2 inches to 6 inches and just right for little hands.
The set includes Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the stable, two angels, a shepherd, a sheep and a cow.
Although it is marketed as a refrigerator set, it could easily be adapted to a lap toy for the car or the plane with the addition of a magnetic board. $8.95
Speaking of travel, there are quite a few other ways to include talking about the story of Jesus’ birth with your children while you are on the go this holiday season. Here are a few ideas:
- Dover‘s Nativity Sticker Activity Book and Easy Nativity Scenes Sticker Puzzles both available at com. These little inexpensive books fit well into your purse or carry-on bag to help your little ones stay busy while they are in the car, in a highchair or just sitting in a waiting area somewhere. $1.79 each
- Etsy has a variety of handmade nativity set options, including finger puppets, stickers, figures and make-it-yourself craft kits.
- Another option is a hand carved, hand-stained six-piece wooden nativity set designed by German artist Käthe Wohlfahrt. The set is packaged in a beautiful keepsake wooden box. $54.95
In addition to these online and toy store options, be sure to check out yard sales and thrift stores for some inexpensive children’s nativity set finds.
Additionally, many downsizing or empty-nest families may be happy to share their gently used children’s nativity sets with your family. As always, be mindful of small pieces as they might present a choking hazard to your babies and toddlers.
Whatever children’s nativity set you decide to purchase for your family, you will enjoy the opportunity it provides for sharing the incredible story of Jesus’ birth.