How to Make a Paper Mache Nativity Set

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Keep the craft manageable by adopting a relatively stylized, simplified look for the pieces.
Keep the craft manageable by adopting a relatively stylized, simplified look for the pieces. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

The versatility and ease of paper mache make it a medium that kids and adults can enjoy together. Making a paper mache nativity scene is an activity that the whole family can participate in together, and it will result in a homemade Christmas decoration that will bring back happy memories each year when you bring it out. Let younger children apply paper mache to the larger, simpler pieces, like the stable, while parents and older kids work on the animals and people.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Cardboard
  • Tape
  • Cardboard tubes (optional)
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Newsprint
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes

Cut cardboard into small sheets and tape them together to form the sides and roof of the stable. Form a small cardboard box as the manger.

Cut cardboard profiles of the characters and animals you want in the set, such as the wise men, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a sheep, a camel and a donkey. If desired, use cardboard tubes as the base for each character's body and tape on small pieces of cardboard to define the basic shape of protruding parts like arms, crowns or animals' heads.

Mix equal parts flour and water to create paper mache paste. Tear newsprint into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 1 to 4 inches long.

Dip paper strips into paper mache paste and coat each cardboard model in even layers. Use the paper strips to define a fuller and more detailed shape for each figurine. Allow the paper mache to dry fully after every two to three layers.

When the figurines are complete and thoroughly dried, paint them with tempera paint and allow the paint to dry completely.

Tips & Warnings

  • Animals will be easier to create if you put them in a kneeling pose so that you do not have to make separate legs, which can be fragile and hard to balance.

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