The Husband & the Fairy Godmother recently made a stop-motion animation of the nativity with our kids’ Duplo, using fishing wire and kitchen roll to create flying angels. This was for work. I’m going to leave that thought hanging there while I carry on with my story, but suffice it to say, the project proved that we had in our Duplo collection all the most important pieces to create a nativity scene.
As they had finished, I had bagged up all the figures ready to return to the Duplo box. Then suddenly I had a thought. Here in my hand was an honest to God, ready made “story sack” with which I could tell my tiny people the Christmas story.
The next morning, I prised the Boy and the Girl away from Team Umi-Zoomi (the new craze) and sat them down near the Christmas tree.
“I’m going to tell you a story,” I announced.
The Boy’s eyes wandered longingly back to the living room where the TV is.
I took his Numberjacks from his arms and placed them by the tree. “There, number 3 is all ready to hear the story, and so is number 4, and 5 and number 6 [= the artist formerly known as Teddy]). Are you ready too?”
He was ready.
I took items out of the bag one by one and told the story, building it up as I built up the scene. First I introduced the stable and its inhabitants. The Boy provided the noise for each animal as we placed it in the stable, then he put them around their manger to eat. That evening, Mary and Joseph arrived on their donkey, looking for a place to sleep.
“They asked the animals: can we sleep in your house tonight? We can’t find a bed anywhere! What do you think the animals said?” I foolishly asked the Boy.
“They said no!” he supplied merrily.
“They said yes, actually,” I corrected tersely. “They were very friendly animals.”
Then there was drama in the night, and the baby was born. But oh dear, where could the baby sleep? The manger was invitingly placed front and centre. I gave the Boy the Duplo baby and asked him to find a place for it.
“I know!” he said, and evicted all the animals from the main stable building, ready to put baby Jesus there.
“Or how about this?” I hastily put in, holding up the manger, “This could be a good place for a baby to sleep. Shall we put some hay in to make baby Jesus comfortable?”
The Boy and the Girl industriously collected fallen pine needles from under the tree and placed them in the tiny manger with tiny fingers (which saved me some hoovering later in the day, bonus!). Baby Jesus went on top, and his proud parents stood to either side.
“Jesus was no ordinary baby,” I explained, “He was God’s son. So God put a beautiful bright star in the sky, just above the stable, to show where Jesus was so people could find him and visit him.” I took out the one Christmas decoration we hadn’t put up yet (as it had been in use for the stop-motion animation), the star. I hung it above the tree and our little scene.
“Wow!” said the Boy in awe. “Is a velly big star.”
The shepherds (one of them in a zoo keeper’s outfit, but neither of them can read so I figured it would be okay) followed the star and arrived with their one sheep, followed swiftly by the wise men with their presents for Jesus. They all gathered round and said thank you to God for the baby.
To my utter surprise, the kids were actually engaged and paid attention throughout the whole thing. We then found that lots of our usual activities could link in to the story:
The Boy’s advent calendar – he could identify the stable, the animals, the shepherds and the wise men.
The Boy suggested using the alphabet puzzle to spell some key words. He chose ‘Jesus’ and ‘Baby’, both of which had repeating letters, so I had to be a little creative (see above).
The Girl carried the story on for herself, and spent most of the rest of the day trying to get a wise man, the baby Jesus, Mary, a shepherd, ANYBODY, to sit. on. the. donkey. She managed it once and was very proud.
That evening, Daddy had finished editing the stop motion animation and came down to show us all. We gathered round the laptop and my husband pressed play. The Boy’s eyes grew wide with wonder. There it was! The story from the morning, but the characters were moving, and there were flying angels! The Girl also bounced up and down in excitement. When the story reached its conclusion, the Boy pointed at the baby in the manger and exclaimed: “Baby Jesus!”
I wiped a proud little tear from my eye. Learning had taken place.