Our 20 Favorite Nativity Picture Books
One of my favorite ways to prepare our hearts for the Advent and Christmas season with our toddler is to read Christ-centered picture books that tell the story of the first Christmas. We enjoy using our Little People nativity set to walk through the story, which helps him engage more with the story while being busy with his hands. Here are some of our favorites from last year and the first two weeks of reading Christmas books this season. Most are short enough for infants but engaging enough to keep preschoolers listening as well, especially due to the sweet and skilled illustrations that captivate children and adults alike. I hope you find a few to check out at your public library or buy as gifts for little ones in your life!
Before I jump to the long list, here are a few ways to engage even the youngest children during these picture books:
- Read them multiple times in a few days. Repetition helps young children so much! I pick a few books to focus on each week and we re-read those all week, then we switch to another bunch of books.
- Use different voices for the characters, different speed and say some words softly while others louder to bring the story alive. Kids love silly voices and over-the-top productions when reading-aloud, so have fun with it!
- Ask easy, open-ended questions like "Do you think Mary and Joseph were tired from their long journey once they reached Bethlehem? What feelings do you think they felt when the inn keeper said there was no room for them to rest inside?" "This book has cows, lambs, ducks, etc in the stable. I wonder if there were other animals? I wonder if it was noisy or quiet in the stable?" It's okay to have a few comprehension questions, if desired (like "What was the town that Joseph and Mary traveled to?") but it can make a child feel like they are being quizzed and take the fun away from reading together if they are only listening to pass a test. Instead, engaging questions that you answer as well as more of a conversation, which is helped with starting off the question with "I wonder...", which feels less like a quiz and more like dialogue.
- Use props if available! We love our Little People nativity set. Elliot plays with it while I read nativity stories and we act it out as we read. It's a great way to keep their little hands busy while their minds are still engaged to the story. But even printing out pictures off Pinterest or any other site with the characters of the nativity story and using those can help too. Coloring pages with scenes from the nativity story are also great while reading aloud to kids. You may think they can't work with their hands and listen to a story at the same time, but most kids can do it, and may kids actually listen better when fidgeting/working with their hands!
- Get them moving. We love to play hide-and-seek with the wise men. Then I will talk to Elliot about how the wise men traveled to Bethlehem to find Jesus, so we grab the star off the Christmas tree and I lead the way to our nativity set, where we place the wise men and camel before Jesus. Or have siblings race around the house as if they were shepherds running from the hillside to the stable to see the newborn that the angels told them about.
- Add music! Do you have bells in your Christmas decor? Grab one if it's child-friendly. Or if you have a xylophone, maracas, a tambourine, or other child-friendly instruments, invite them to make a joyful noise if you read any of the picture books below that illustrate Christmas carols. If you play an instrument, give them a mini-concert with the song from the book!
Read-aloud age recommendation: Read at 2 years old, which was a good age. It was too long last Christmas when he was 15 months. I think preschoolers would love it too.