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Paper Nativity Figures at My Little House Freebie  

I promised to update you on our progress making this adorable paper nativity from My Little House with the children in my Bible class...we finished it today!!!
To recap: First, in reading over all the pages I decided that the creche and manger would be too difficult for them so I made them myself before starting the project with the children. I also made the first palm tree just to see how the branches would work ahead of time (I decided to add a few extra branches). This is how it looks so far (sitting on Boo's bed!):
Last Sunday I started the project with the children who were very excited about it. I told them when we are done the pastor wants to display it on the communion table in front of his pulpit for everyone to enjoy. We started it after our lesson for the day and everyone got all the pieces for their character cut out. After class I scored all the lines so we'd be ready to fold and glue this week. I realized that I could score before cutting and speed things up, so I scored the entire kit yesterday using a dead pen (always saving money!) and cut the sheets into sections containing all the parts to one character for ease in handing out. I also shrunk one of the trees to 75% so I could vary the height like in the preview.

I like to re-purpose things to save both money and our landfills, so when I saw the packing material around an electric griddle my daughter got on Black Friday, I thought the texture would be fabulous for the ground in our scene since that part of the world wasn't grassy. I considered if the uneven surface would prevent the elements of the scene from standing properly, but they have square bases so I hope it will be fine after I glue this new surface down tight!

First I tore it and bent it to make the molded packing as flat as I could. I clearly didn't have enough to cover the piece of cardboard I'd cut from the face of the box to be our foundation for the scene. I cut off parts to use as little hills and rises to add interest to the scene.
I got to thinking about paper making. I've seen where they will take paper and put it through a blender with liquid, adding some things and then spread it on screen and dry making new paper. This packing was very thick. I decided to tear it into sections and soak it in hot water to soften it and start breaking down the fibers, hoping it wouldn't loose it's great texture. When it was soft, I separated the layers and tore small pieces that I smooshed together on a cookie sheet. When I'd covered the sheet I put it in my oven at the lowest setting, checking every 8 minutes. I wasn't sure if this would be a fire risk, so I stayed and worked on the scoring right next to the oven, just in case. It wasn't sufficiently dry when I wanted to go to bed, so I took it out and just put it on top the stove for the night. This morning it looked fabulous! It was dry and all my little pieces were now one! Though delicate. (See how the layers separated?)
The cookie sheet wasn't as long as my cardboard, so I covered my cardboard with foil, taping the seams to protect against moisture. I loosened my new "paper" with a spatula and centered it on my now protected cardboard (just in case I couldn't sufficiently "blend" the edges). I needed to add more to it so I wetted the existing edges and added till it was full. It looked better than this when I was done and you can see I still had more of the material left over! Since air drying worked overnight last night, I have just set it on top my stove for now since it's toasty warm up there while I reseason my cast iron skillet (at 500 degrees!).
This is a close up of the cool texture when it's dry! I think it looks very authentic!
With this success I'm thinking I might be able to alter the appearance of my "hills" the same way to blend better into the surface...hmmmm.

I need to attach my new surface to the cardboard backing (foil removed). That's a LOT of surface, so I wonder if ModPodge would be a good idea for this job? I have never used it, but I've read marvelous things about it. There are LOTS of varieties of ModPodge out there and I don't know what to try. If you have a suggestion I'd really appreciate you posting or e-mailing me QUICKLY! :)

That brings us up to today. My class worked on it three weeks (I worked a lot longer) and today we finished! They LOVED it and the grownups are loving it too now that it's sitting up front of the pulpit for all to enjoy. I'm having all the children who worked on it sign the underneath of the "ground" at the Pastor's suggestion (wish I'd thought of it!). I'm thinking of ModPodging all the pieces to help it last for the future. I can see using elements of it to act out many Bible lessons in the future.

ModPodge it worked fine for attaching my "ground" to the base. In the end I didn't like the hills and rises and scrapped them. This is how it looked at our Christmas party without any of the animals being done yet.
This is how it looks today after finishing all the pieces in class.
Update: I thought we were done, but then he gave us the wise men set so...
I love the camels! My "ground" is no longer large enough. You have to choose shepherds or wise men! That's ok. They didn't come at the same time anyway! Some scholars think the wise men didn't arrive till our Lord was two! I don't know, but I do know that all that matters is it's all true and they did come and most importantly - HE came!!! Hallelujah!

If you are thinking of doing this with your children, I can say that 8-13 yr. olds loved it and it was doable. Everyone had fun learning about the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and we are memorizing Luke 2:1-20, but with all the busyness and excitement, we aren't quite there yet, but they learned all the books of the Bible and the 10 plagues in the last little while, so I couldn't be more proud of them. The process of making this afforded many teaching moments about Father God, our Lord Jesus Christ and how we are to live as His people. Many, many thanks to Martin Didier for making this and giving it to the world! God bless you!

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