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Nativity Crib Sensory Play For Toddlers & Preschoolers

The first of our Storybook Advent featured books is the Nativity and we have a fantastic Sensory Play Activity for you and your kids to set up and explore, play and use for retelling the story this Christmas. So here we go a Natural Sensory Play Inspired by the Nativity Story for Kids.

storybook advent Nativity set and sensory play
Storybook Advent – the first activity to set up a Nativity Set that is sensory for toddlers and preschoolers to play with as you countdown the 24th days of Christmas.

Nativity Sensory Play Activity for Toddlers & Preschoolers

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There’s nothing lovelier than sharing a special Christmas book with your toddler followed by a craft or activity to help them remember the story.

We love reading ‘The Nativity’ during advent to give meaning to the season and this year we created a special Nativity Sensory Play Activity for toddlers and pre-schoolers to explore after reading the story.

You could even set up a sensory play area to re-enact the special Nativity story as you go!

There are so many different elements to the Nativity Story, that sensory play is perfect for helping young children understand the different storylines that occur.

Sensory play is so important for preschoolers as it helps them engage their world through their senses and helping them experiment through their senses is crucial to help them get ready for school!

Creating a storytelling sensory play brings the story alive through all the children’s senses. Each part of the sensory bin you create becomes an experience which invites children to interact with the characters and symbols of the story – sensory storytelling is a fun activity that you can do with lots of kids or just one.

You can either enjoy it as an activity together with your child or set it up as a ‘keeping busy’ activity they will love as you countdown to Christmas and celebrate Advent together!

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Storytelling Sensory Play & Bins for Toddlers & Preschoolers

gruffalo sensory bin for retelling the story
The Gruffalo Sensory Bin for Kids
Full instructions on creating a Christmas Sensory Bin inspired by the classic children's Christmas book The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg.
Jolly Christmas Postman Sensory Bin with Fake Snow
hungry caterpillar sensory bin pin
Very Hungry Caterpillar Sensory Bin

Check out just 3 of our story themed sensory bins here on Rainy Day Mum – The Gruffalo, The Jolly Christmas Postman and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Creating a Sensory Play Nativity

Christmas sensory play nativity set for toddlers

Materials Needed for a Nativity Sensory Play Set-Up

  • Box to represent the stable
  • Figures of the Nativity Characters we used characters from the Playmobil Nativity Manger
  • Straw or shredded paper
  • Small box e.g. Matchbox to be a manger for the stable
  • Wooden peg doll for Jesus – we bought this collection and used them to make our Nativity Peg Ornaments and Angel
  • Star Christmas Decoration
  • Stones, pebbles, beans, sand etc… to represent the journey that Mary made
  • Spices & Foil to represent the gifts from the 3 Kings
materials collected from around the home to create a sensory play experience inspired by the Nativity Story
Nativity Story Sensory Play Experience Material Ideas

How to Set up Your Nativity Story Sensory Tub

We created our Sensory Nativity Crib Scene by working backwards through the story.

preschooler helping to set up a Nativity Crib that they can Play with
Preschooler Setting up the Nativity Scene for Sensory Play during Advent

First, we created a stable out of a wicker box.

You could use anything for your stable – a cardboard box or wicker basket works well.

Materials and set up for a Nativity Crib Scene for Sensory Play
Materials for Nativity Sensory Play including a copy of the story

Add some small Mary and Joseph figures (ours were Playmobil – linked in the materials list above!) and some animals to the stable too.

You could use real hay or straw for your stable or if there are allergies and you want to make it easier to tidy up – try using packing materials from deliveries.

You will need a small baby Jesus wrapped in a tissue or material – a matchbox makes a perfect manger!

We used a star Christmas decoration to hang above the stable, but you could make a star out of cardboard and glitter.

nativity set for Toddlers and Preschoolers to play with
Putting together a Nativity Set that your toddler or preschooler can play with helps them learn about the story and retell it in their own words and actions.

My toddler had as much fun sourcing the things for our sensory Nativity Bin as he did in playing with it!

To try and help children understand what a difficult journey Mary had on her donkey – we trudged Mary through some dried borlotti beans and pebbles. We also added some split peas and dried wheat to represent the shepherd’s food for the animals.

Kids will love scooping and sprinkling the wheat and split peas (or you could use lentils). Adding some small mini wood slices are great for stacking and using for Mary and Joseph to sit on!

Simple Peg Doll Angel to Make with Kids

During your telling of the Nativity story – you could use an angel (try making a Peg Doll Angel) and your kids will have fun sprinkling white feathers down onto your stable.

spices to represent the 3 kings gifts in the nativity story
The 3 Kings gifted Spices why not use some from your kitchen cupboards to create another sensory experience for your kids.

If you’d like to help your kids remember the part of The Nativity where the Three Kings visit – you could use spices to represent the gifts they bring. We chose to use cinnamon sticks and ground spice in little pots – the kids had such fun smelling the spices and taking their gifts to the stable to visit Baby Jesus!

Make your own calming gift of the magi play dough with this simple recipe that you can use in connection with The Christmas Story for sensory play.
Gifts for the Magi (3 Kings) Play Dough to Make for Christmas Sensory Play

You could also make some Playdough inspired by the gifts with our homemade gifts of the 3 kings play dough for Christmas Sensory Play.

Hope these ideas help you create your own Nativity Sensory Play to make the Nativity story memorable this Advent Season!

More Activities & Crafts Inspired by the Nativity Story

Create your own Nativity Story Stones to help children understand the true meaning of Christmas. These simple stones are easy to make.
Nativity Story Stones to Make
Textured Art Nativity Project for kids - based on the Nativity Story create this sensory art project
Nativity Story Art Project for Kids
Make this advent window star with your kids! The three kings are sure to find their way with this. Easy step by step instructions & photos to make your own!
Make a Window Star to represent the Star the 3 Kings Followers

Check out these other Nativity themed Activities for Kids that you can do after reading the Nativity Story together.

Nativity Story Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Nativity Story Sensory Play
Jemma from Thimble and Twig

Jemma blogs at Thimble and Twig about hopscotching through life with 4 little people whilst clinging onto a job and renovating our 1930s house.

Our family are passionate about outdoor adventures and exploring in our home of South East London.

We love making and baking and going on nature walks.

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