The Nativity of Christ: Playdough learning mats

This set is available for purchase at the Draw Near Designs Marketplace.

These durable, washable, double-sided plastic mats feature scenes from the Orthodox Nativity icon, creating a tactile, sensory opportunity for a deeper understanding of the theology of the Great Feast.

  • In the classroom, conduct an engaging learning session with absolutely no preparation.
  • At home, spend a quietly busy morning or evening – you can even make your own play dough. *Scroll down for a favorite recipe.*
  • Pair the mats with some dough (store-bought or homemade) for a meaningful Christmas gift.

Our play dough mats provide a sensory learning experience for young children. They are made out of sturdy, durable plastic which is easy to clean and lasts a long time, so they can be used year after year. They help teach the Nativity of Christ in an Orthodox-focused way, leading to a better understanding of the events and theology of this Great Feast.

Using our mats, the children get to:

  • Internalize important keywords modeling the play dough after the shapes of the letters.
  • Explore key concepts following the prompts on the mats.
  • Express their creativity by assembling their own compositions.
  • The mats can also act as a backup activity in the classroom, when the students are arriving and the teacher has to keep them busy until everyone gets settled, or when there are a few minutes of class time remaining at the end of a session.

The set consists of TWO double-sided 9″x12″ mats; each side features a different design.


  • According to Orthodoxy, through the Incarnation of God the whole of creation acquired new meaning and potential.
  • At the Nativity, representatives of the whole created world gave thanks to God by offering something to the newborn Christ.
  • The icon and Kontakion of the Nativity both tell the story of Christ’s birth.
  • The two are closely connected – the icon visually represents what is verbally described in the Kontakion.
  • In the icon, we observe a variety of scenes that seem to occur at the same time but, in reality, happened at separate times.
  • Every object in the icon has deep theological meaning and all elements have a scriptural reference from the Bible and the Holy Tradition.

Free lesson plan and extra resources

For a lesson plan and additional hands-on Nativity activities please visit our page:
The Nativity of Christ: Our resource collection.


  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup hot water (you may need to add a little more; if using the spices, start with more water because part of it will evaporate while boiling – measure the water after the boiling is done)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar 
  • Optional: Spices such as cinnamon sticks, orange peel pieces, and/or whole cloves – or – flavoring extracts such as orange, vanilla or almond
  • Optional: Food color

If using the spices, boil them in the water for a few minutes so they can release their aromas. Place all the ingredients except the food color in a large bowl and mix into a smooth dough. Let it rest for a few minutes so the salt can absorb the water. Turn out the dough onto a flat surface and knead well, gradually adding a little water or flour if necessary until the desired consistency is reached.

Separate the dough into as many parts as there are colors. Color each part of the dough using a few drops of food color, gradually adding more until you get the desired hue. You can place the dough in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and then mix in the color while squeezing the dough from outside the bag – that way you will avoid staining your hands.