Begin a new family tradition this Christmas. Stage a Nativity scene shadow puppet play with kids!
A couple of years ago, I held a poll among my readers, asking what shadow puppet set they’d like to see me create. I got a lot of interesting answers. The one that popped up often was a Nativity scene, which seemed like a great addition to our shadow theatre. So I started to work on it, and this Christmas I’m happy to finally show it.
As a shadow puppet set, the Nativity set is one of my favourites, the other current favourite being Create-a-Fairy-tale set. I was working on them both at the same time and using all the skills I had learnt from making my previous shadow puppets. Granted, the previous ones were all based on 19th C fairy-tales, and I felt like I should use a different style for the Nativity set. The Nativity silhouettes are less frilly and more abstract than the rest of our puppets. Flowing folds of robes contrast with the spiky straw edges of the barn and the manger.
There are many characters in the play, so I tried to choose the essential ones. Depending on how many puppeteers you can enlist, you may want to reduce the amount even more. If we have a shadow puppet show with a screen and there are too many objects involved, I also often adhere a few right to the screen with a double-sided tape. That creates static objects and frees hands.
How to Make Shadow Puppets
How to Make Your Own Puppets
The post contains Amazon affiliate links to the products we used.
You will find the puppet designs to be in JPEG formats: that way, you can use them for printing on paper and cutting by hand or for importing into the software of a silhouette cutting machine. Regardless of what you do for cutting, I recommend using 80-90 lb black paper for the puppets. 65 lb could do as well, but will be a little on a thin side; 110+ lb would work great for stiffness, but increases the difficulty of cutting. 80-90 lb is my happy medium. Bamboo skewers make convenient puppet sticks.
2 — There is still nothing wrong with cutting with scissors! I recommend printing the silhouettes on black paper. It’s a little more difficult to see the design than on white paper, but it’s not at all impossible, as you can see for yourself on the picture above. That way the puppets are black on both sides, and little discrepancies between the printed design and the actual cut will not show up.
My favourite tools for cutting are:
- standard scissors for cutting out general shapes and straight lines
- precision manicure scissors for cutting out tiny details
- hobby knife for cutting out inner design, like folds in clothes and windows in buildings
For a demonstration, you can hop over to this project and watch a video of me cutting a silhouette design.
And have the beginning of a new family tradition, with a mysterious shadow play retelling the ancient story of Christmas.