Toilet Roll Nativity Set

A toilet roll nativity set provides hours of imaginative play in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.

I have a couple of dollar store nativity sets that the Hooligans have been playing with for over a decade, and they’re sweet, but they’re showing their age.

Some pieces are chipped, and the donkeys and cows are missing an ear here and a hoof there because they’ve been dropped so many times.  So three years ago, I put on my thinking cap and came up with this kid-friendly, unbreakable toilet roll nativity set for the kids to play with.

homemade toilet roll nativity set

It was such a hit with the Hooligans that I spent several evenings leading up to Christmas making each of them a set of their own.


This set does take some time to make, but if you’re crafty, you’ll have fun with it.  It’s absolutely adorable, and it will provide your little ones with hours of entertainment and imaginative play in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And it’s a great way to upcycle all those cardboard rolls you have stashed in your craft room!

Because I made this nativity set long before I started blogging, I didn’t take pictures of the process, so I’m just going to tell you what supplies you’ll need, and give you the basic how-to.

Supplies for toilet roll nativity set:

  • Glue gun
  • toilet rolls (or paper towel rolls/wrapping paper rolls)
  • card stock or construction paper in skin tones (to cover the head half of the tube)
  • fabric scraps for cloaks
  • smaller scraps for head coverings
  • felt for king’s crown
  • elastics (to keep head covering on)
  • wool or trim to cover elastics
  • buttons, beads, craft jewels for embellishments on cloaks/crown
  • pipe cleaners for shepherd’s hook and halos
  • artificial flower for angel’s wings
  • fine tip markers for facial features
  • pale pink marker for cheeks

toilet roll nativity set - happy hooligans

How to make a toilet roll nativity set:

Cut your cardboard rolls into various heights, depending on how tall/short you want your characters.  For baby Jesus, I think I cut the tube in half, and then cut that tube up the middle and squeezed it together a bit to make it tinier.  Tape it back together.

Cut a strip of skin coloured construction paper or card stock and glue that to the “head” half of your tube.  That’s your character’s face.

Now get your fabric scraps.  Cut a rectangle that will start under the character’s face and extend to the bottom of your tube.  If you’re folding the edges of your fabric under to prevent fraying, allow for that bit of extra that you’re folding. Glue the fabric to your toilet roll. With some of the more rustic fabrics I used, I actually wanted them to fray so I didn’t bother folding the edges under.

For the head covering, you may want to play around with a piece of paper towel to get the shape right, and use that as a pattern.  Cut your head covering out, and using an elastic band, secure it to the top end of the toilet roll.  Glue a piece of wool or ribbon or trim over the elastic to hide it.

mary - toilet roll nativity

Draw your character’s face on, and use a pale pink marker or crayon or pencil crayon to make the cheeks rosy.   Do not use a poor-quality, dark pinky-purple marker like I did for Mary and Baby Jesus.  This wasn’t the look I was going for.

toilet roll nativity set - mary and baby jesus

For the King’s crown, cut a jagged, crown-ish piece of felt and glue that to the King’s head.

toilet roll nativity set - king

For our toilet roll angel angel, I pulled apart an artificial white flower, and opened it up so it looked like wings, and glued that to her back.toilet roll nativity set angel

Now have some fun with your embellishements.  Add some buttons to the cloaks, some jewels to the King’s crown, and some fancy trim to the angel’s dress.  Glue pipe cleaner halos to the angel and baby jesus, and a shepherd’s hook to the shepherd.

toilet roll nativity set shepherd and joseph

To make a toilet roll manger:

I cut a toilet roll in half, and then opened it up like a cradle.  I cut a couple of small sections of tube, and I cut them again, in half, so they were like a “u”.  I glued those, upside-down, to the bottom of the cradle so it wouldn’t rock (if you get what I mean).  I used a hairbrush to fray some beige wool, and I glued that in the manger to look like straw.

toilet roll nativity set - baby jesus in the manger

Shoebox stable:

The stable is made from a shoebox that I decorated with wallpaper samples.  Your homemade nativity characters can be stored inside the box when not in use.

toilet roll nativity set in a shoebox stable

These photos were taken today 3 years after I made our toilet roll nativity set.  You can see what great shape the characters are in, after all they play they’ve endured season after season.

Without a doubt that this project was absolutely worth the time and effort that I put into it!  :)

To see all of our easy and affordable Christmas crafts and activities for kids, click the link to visit my Hooligans Xmas Board on Pinterest.


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    • happyhooligans says

      Thanks, Debby! They are pretty darn cute aren’t they! Wait until you see the adorable toilet roll snowmen that are going up on the blog tonight. You might change your mind. THEY might just be the cutest things ever. :)

  1. says

    THANK YOU!!! I have been looking for something to do with our kids church for christmas…we have HUNDREDS of toilet roll innards and this is perfect :)

  2. Rosetta says

    I’m planning TABLE CENTERPIECES for our Church fall/winter dinner. This will be one I use as it depicts Thanksgiving and Christ’s birth ..for Christmas.

  3. says

    So brilliant! We used our TP rolls to make a little town of Bethlehem, the boys enjoyed it so much. I’m sure they will have a ball with this too. Thank you so much for sharing Jackie. I’ll be featuring this post in my nativity activities for kids roundup. xoxo P

  4. Gill says

    Hi Jackie Thanks for the inspiration. I made a set for our great niece and great nephew. My niece said they don’t have a nativity scene so its a keeper for xmasses to come which is lovely! A new family tradition!
    My husband suggested a slit in the bottom of the cardboard tube for the angel so she could sit on top of the stable door – and that worked well. We now can’t help but smile every time we finish a toilet roll ‘Another Mary for you dear …’
    Thanks again

    • happyhooligans says

      So glad you loved it enough to make your own, Gill! Brilliant thinking with the angel on the stable door! Good work, hubby!

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