Rainy Day Projects – Make an Illuminated Manger

November 27, 2013


I just received the photos for this wonderful project from Meg (friend and crafter-extraordinaire).  It’s a fun activity for a rainy day afternoon with kids and turns common and found materials into a wonderful manger for your Christmas nativity figures.

Considering that you would have to pay $60 or more for this type of project, I’m excited to see this fun project and I plan to make one with my boys this weekend after we enjoy time with family this Thanksgiving weekend.

Required Materials:

  • Cardboard (or thin plywood if you want to be more adventurous – just make adjustments in your own head as you read this post… drill holes instead of cut, nails instead of glue, etc.)
  • A set of craft lights – a 20-light strand of white lights on green wire was used for this project.
  • Hot glue sticks (in a hot glue gun!)
  • Rocks, straw, bark and other cool stuff you can find on a nature walk
  • Exacto knife or other sharp blade

Step by Step Instructions:

1.  Cut a piece of cardboard for the top of your manger.  This piece is approximately 30 x 10 inches and has been scaled to Meg’s nativity figures that didn’t have a home.

Slightly bend your roof.  You’ll use it’s width to approximate the size of your base.  (All of these measurements are estimates.  If you are an incredibly precise person, I won’t make fun of you if you grab a ruler and some graph paper at this point in the process.)

manger materials
Manger roof and a set of lights

2.  Mark 20 spots (or however many mini lights you are using) on the top of your roof and mark them with an X.  On a cutting board, piece of plywood or similar base, cut out your little X’s to make holes for your lights.

Test your first hole to make sure your cuts big enough to allow the bulb to peek through but not so large it hangs out.  (Wouldn’t want to whack a wise-man on the head.)

manger roof with marks for cutting
Mark your roof and cut holes for lights

3.  Install the lights.  Then cut a base and walls the same depth as your roof and the height you need based on the size of your figures.  Hot glue your walls, floor and roof together.

Install the lights
Assemble your manger with hot glue
Assemble your manger with hot glue

4.  Assemble your decorative materials.

Items that were collected with project in mind
Items that were collected with project in mind

5. Hot glue small stones on your manger walls, attach bark to the roof and add some additional natural materials to give you manger a lovely rustic feel.  Meg’s tip at this point was to, “Use lots and lots of hot glue”.  (I never manage to get through a project like this without at least one small hot glue burn.  Use more caution than I do.)

Glue on stones, bark and wood
Glue on stones, bark and wood
View from the front
View from the front

5.  Add your nativity figures, plug in your lights and enjoy the show.

Yea! Completed project!
Yea! Completed project!


As a family, we take time in the evenings leading up to Christmas to discuss the different figures in the Nativity and their significance.  We’re usually drinking hot cocoa at the same time.

Whether you make a manger of your own or use this as inspiration for a different kind of decorative project for the Holidays,  take time to complete easy crafts with your children or grandchildren.  Enjoy the process as much as the results.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Photos credit:  Meg Arbour
Meg, is a home-educating mom of 4 who has partnered with 2 women to start an online business.  She knows plenty about balancing being a wife, mother and business person.  I love that she makes time in her day to do hands-on activities with her kids.  Check out her website at Lesson Plan Ladies.

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