The Nativity of Christ: Playdough learning mats

This set is available as a retail item at the Draw Near Designs Marketplace.

If you are interested in bulk orders for a church group, a Sunday School, a homeschooling co-op or a bookstore, kindly CONTACT US. Thank you!

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.


Special thanks to Presvytera Destinie of Ascetic Life of Motherhood for sharing wonderful photos of her sweet little children working with our mats.