Mexican Nativity Decoration

Create a modelled nativity scene in a box as an unusual Christmas decoration.

Mexican Nativity Decoration

Skill Level


Time to Make

2.5 hours + drying time for paint and air-drying clay (24 hours)

Adult Supervision Needed


How to Make

  1. Open a keepsake box. Carefully pull off the shallow box section from the card backing. Leave the deeper box section in place.
    Run a closed pair of scissors along the hinged fold in the middle so the box opens out flat. Don’t worry if the backing card tears, as this will be covered up.
  2. Open another keepsake box. Pull off both the shallow and deep box sections from the card backing then run a pair of scissors along the fold in the middle to open it out.
    Spread glue over one side of the card backing then press the box from Step 1 on top, making 3 sections, with the raised box section in the middle and a folding panel on either side.
    Cover any splits or gaps along the folds with masking tape.
  3. Cut a 9cm x 2.5cm strip of card from one of the left over boxes to make a shelf to divide the nativity scene. Glue around the edges of the card, stick it in place, about half way down inside the box section then leave to dry. If there’s a gap around the card strip, cover it with a piece of masking tape.
    Depending on your design, place the shelf higher or lower, or leave it off if you prefer.
  4. Place the folding box flat on your work surface. Paint the side panels and box section white then leave to dry. Paint the side panels and around the edges of the box section bright red (or use another colour) then leave to dry.
    Add a second coat of paint if necessary.
    Turn the box over it over and paint it on the reverse. Leave to dry.
  5. To make a nativity figure, shape a small ball of air-drying clay into an oval, 4-5cm in height. Smooth the clay with your fingers so it tapers towards the top then flatten the base so it stands up. Make more figures for a nativity scene in the same way. Use a smaller piece of clay for the baby. Make the manger from a separate ball of clay with a dip in the middle.
    Keep the width of the clay pieces less than 2cm so they will fit inside then box.
    Leave the clay pieces to dry overnight.
  6. Paint the central box section with coloured panels and a night sky or a simple landscape. Leave to dry.
  7. To make the 2 decorative panels, cut 2 pieces of white card 8cm x 12cm. Paint bright patterns onto the card with circles, simple flowers and wavy lines. Print dotted patterns or small circles with a cotton bud. Leave to dry then glue the card onto the folding sides of the box.
  8. Use fine sandpaper to smooth the bases and any uneven surfaces on the nativity figures, so they stand upright. Paint the figures in bright colours then leave to dry. Paint details onto the figures with a fine brush.
    To make the halos and the angel’s wings, brush gold paint onto a piece of card, leave to dry then cut out some small circles and the wing shapes.
    Decide where to position the nativity figures in the box then glue the card wings and halos onto the background (this is easier than sticking the card onto the figures). Glue the clay figures in to the box. Leave to dry.
  9. Finish the box with gold painted patterns around the border and sides of the box and star gems or other decorations.
Mexican Nativity Decoration Mexican Nativity Decoration Mexican Nativity Decoration

Top Tip

Try making another smaller scene or decoration inside one of the left-over boxes from Step 2. The deeper box can be used as a free-standing frame, or tape a piece of ribbon onto the back of the shallower box, so it hangs up.

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