Here’s an interactive nativity story to use at a toddler Christmas party or celebration. It simply shows that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, the baby who slept in a manger. Ask the adults to bring their children (or a soft toy) dressed as a nativity character. It doesn’t matter how many Marys, Josephs, shepherds etc. come along on the day. Helpers could dress up, too!
Toddler groups might like to invite their minister to make the brief point that since Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus, it would be a shame to leave him out of the celebrations.
Ready: Decorate your meeting room and/or kitchen counter with items that help us celebrate both birthdays and Christmas, e.g. a cake with candles, balloons, cards, decorations, presents.
For the story, you will need a box for the manger, some straw, a big star to hang over the stable area, and a baby doll wrapped in a shawl.
Teddy: Dress Teddy as a nativity character, e.g. as a king with a paper crown and a cape. He could be holding a small box wrapped in foil as a precious gift.
Go: You’re ready to explain what Christmas is all about.
Story-telling tips: This story aims to keep the children engaged by involving them in simple actions, songs, sound effects and questions throughout. You might like to ask the adults to listen out for their cue to make animal sounds in the stable! The story starts at Mary’s house and moves to the stable area.
Leader: Welcome to our Christmas party, everyone! You all look great in your costumes. Look! Even Teddy’s dressed up! We’ve got (as appropriate) balloons, a cake, presents, decorations and most important of all, friends to help us celebrate. It’s just like a birthday party, isn’t it? But whose birthday is it? I wonder! Well, listen to the Christmas story and you’ll find out!
Helper 1: Long ago, God wanted to send us a present to say, “I love you!” What do you think that present was? It was a baby boy – his own son, Jesus. Isn’t that amazing?
Helper 2: God needed someone kind to look after him. So he sent the Angel Gabriel to ask Mary to be the baby’s mummy. Is anyone here dressed up as Mary? Yes! What about as an angel? Good! Can you stand up?
Helper 3: Mary is very surprised when the angel comes to her house. “Don’t be afraid!” says the angel. “God loves you very much. You are going to have a baby soon and you must call him Jesus. He will be a great king. Will you look after him, please?” Wow! What do you think Mary says? She says, “YES!” What does she say? She says . . .
Helper 3: Let’s all stand up and sing a song about that.
All: (To the tune Frere Jacques)
God is sending,
God is sending,
A baby boy, a baby boy, (rock arms)
You can be his mother,
You can be his mother,
Jump for joy, jump for joy! (jump and clap)
Helper 1: Let’s all sit down again! Well, Mary is so happy that she can’t wait to find Joseph. Is anyone dressed as Joseph here? That’s wonderful! Listen to Mary’s news! “Joseph, God is sending us a baby boy and he wants us to look after him. Isn’t that exciting?”
Helper 2: Now Mary and Joseph are very busy getting ready for the baby. Mary’s tummy grows big and round. But just when it’s time for the baby to be born, they have to go on a long journey to Bethlehem. Oh, no! Come on, let’s walk with them and help them on their way . . .
All: (To the tune Here we go round the mulberry bush)
Here we up to Bethlehem, (walk on spot or to stable area)
Here we go up to Bethlehem,
On a cold and frosty morning. (repeat as required)
Where shall we stay in Bethlehem, (hand above eyes, searching)
Where shall we stay in Bethlehem,
On a cold and frosty morning?
Helper 3: Phew, I’m tired! Let’s sit down for a rest . . . Mary and Joseph are tired, too. They need somewhere to stay for the night. But everywhere’s so crowded. It’s buzzing with people! Can you make a buzzing sound?
All: Buzz, buzz, buzz!
Helper 1: Yes, all the inns and hotels are full. Where can they stay? Joseph knocks on lots of doors, rat-a-tat-tat . . . Can you knock on a door?
All: Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat!
Helper 1: Have you any room? But everywhere they go they hear the same thing. No room, no room. What do they hear?
All: No room, no room!
Helper 2: Until at last, one very kind innkeeper says, “Oh dear, you do look tired. You could stay in my stable, if you like. That’s if you don’t mind my animals!
Helper 3: Mary and Joseph don’t mind at all. Oh, thank you, thank you! What do they say?
All: Thank you, thank you!
Helper 3: Come on then, all you Marys and Josephs, come into the stable and sit near the manger, the animals’ feed box . . .
The straw feels all prickly and tickly, doesn’t it? If we keep very quiet and still, we might hear the animals saying “goodnight!” Listen!
Adults: Ee-aw, ee-aw! Neigh, neigh, baa-baa, etc!
Helper 3: Have we got any animals here? Come and settle down for the night near the manger!
Helper 1: (whisper, with awe) Tonight, the stars are glowing like birthday candles in the dark sky. Have we got any stars here? Come on then! And tonight, in this chilly stable, baby Jesus is born. (Bring out the doll and show it to the children) Mary gives him a cuddle. Then she wraps him up and places him gently in the manger. (Place the baby doll in the manger)
All: Away in a manger (sing the first verse together)
Helper 2: All the angels in heaven are very excited that baby Jesus has been born on earth. Come on, you angels, can you flap your wings and play “follow my leader” to come and stand behind the others? Don’t forget to have a peep in the manger on the way . . .
Helper 3: “It’s Jesus’ birthday today!” sing the angels. “Let’s give a party for him!” So they hang up a bright, shiny star over the stable as if to say, “The party is here! Everyone is invited!” (Hang up your star)
Helper 1: But who do you think will come? Who is awake in the middle of the night? Yes! The shepherds on the hillside, of course! They always stay awake to look after their sheep. Do we have any shepherds here? “Dear Shepherds,” sing the angels, “You are invited to a birthday party for baby Jesus. Do come! You’ll find the baby lying in a manger.”
Helper 2: “Yes, please! We’d love to come,” say the shepherds. They gather up some lambs and hurry into Bethlehem to look for the baby. Come on, shepherds, come and kneel in front of the manger . . .
Helper 3: Far away, some kings see the star hanging in the sky. Do we have any kings here? Can you point at the star? “Look! Someone’s having a party,” they say. “Let’s follow the star and see who it is! We can bring some precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Come on, kings, come and join the party!
Helper 1: What a wonderful time they had admiring the new baby king. And that’s why we’re having a party today – to remember Jesus’ birthday. So that’s whose birthday it is! Shall we sing Happy Birthday to him?
All: Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Jesus,
Happy Birthday to you!
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for sending us such a wonderful Christmas present – baby Jesus! Thank you for Mary and Joseph who looked after him, for the innkeeper and his animals who shared their stable with him, for the angels who invited the shepherds, and for the stars that sparkled like birthday candles and led the Kings to Bethlehem. This Christmas, help us to remember to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Amen
Party bag: Why not suggest to the adults that they continue the birthday theme at home over the festive season by helping their toddlers to complete the Christmas Eye-Spy activity?
Have fun keeping your eyes open for the real meaning of Christmas!
Have a look out for some of these things.
Do they remind you of anything or anyone from the nativity story?
Wrapped Christmas presents
Precious g – – – –
Christmas cake with candles
Jesus’ birth – – –
Party hats in crackers
The K – – – – from the East
The Angel on the top of a Christmas tree
The A – – – – Gabriel
A star decoration
The s – – – over the stable
A newborn baby
B – – – Jesus