The traditional nativity play is apparently on the decline, replaced by 'updated' versions with aliens and punk fairies instead of shepherds and angels.
Personally, I have very fond memories of my children's nativity plays. Seeing little ones experiencing the real meaning of Christmas is lovely for parents, particularly in an early years childcare setting. And staging a simple nativity play, with even the youngest of children, is a lot easier than you might think...
While budgets don't always allow for shop-bought costumes, your little performers can still shine with quick and easy-to-make nativity outfits. Start with a simple no-sew tabard, then add a few accessories. You will need a long rectangle of cheap fabric which, when folded in half, reaches just above the child's ankles. Fold the rectangle in half lengthways and cut out a semi-circle in the centre of the folded edge. It will look fine as it is or you can hem the edges using a sewing machine or iron-on tape.
Mary, make a blue tabard and add a headdress using white material secured with a stretchy hairband. Swaddle a doll in a blanket to represent the baby Jesus.
Joseph and Shepherd, choose a stripy fabric for Joseph's tabard so he stands out from the crowd. Tie with a leather belt or rope and make a headdress using a tea towel secured with a stretchy hairband or rope. Go for a plain colour for the shepherds' tabards and add a toy sheep to carry.
Wise Men, jewel-coloured tabards work well and are eye-catching. Add a pendant necklace, crown cut from gold card and 'gift' made from a box wrapped in shiny paper.
Angel, make a simple white tabard and add a tinsel belt and halo.
Sheep, make a white tabard (which can be adorned with cotton wool balls if you are feeling creative) add white leggings or tights and a headband with white card ears attached.
Donkey, a brown tabard, brown tights or leggings, and this time a headband with brown donkey ears attached. Pipe cleaners taped to the back will cure droopy ears.
Showtime, the key to an early years nativity is to keep it short to ensure the children stay engaged. One tried and tested idea is for an adult to stand centre stage and read the Christmas story with children playing the various roles. Incorporate Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem, the innkeeper shaking his head to say there's no room, but showing them the stable where children can play the part of sheep and donkeys. Mary can lay baby Jesus in the manger then bring on angels heralding the birth, with shepherds and wise men arriving after having followed the star. Instead of lines, songs go down well, are easy to learn and can be inserted at appropriate moments during the performance. Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star is a simple variation of the traditional version, the first verse of Away in a Manger is straightforward and We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a great way of ending the nativity play.