How To Draw A Chalk Pastel Nativity {Leonardo da Vinci Style}

Through our Charlotte Mason method of education, we study 3 artists per year, and we are currently studying Leonardo da Vinci. I thought I would share our Christmas project with you- a nativity drawn in da Vinci’s style.

how to draw a nativity leonardo da vinci style- art project for kids

This projects is very easy and simple, so no stress on mom. 😉

Supplies Needed To Draw Your Own Nativity:

  • Brown paper (We used cut up grocery bags. You could certainly use brown construction paper, but I would use a larger piece- it will be hard to fit in the details with chalk pastels on a normal sized piece of paper.)
  • Chalk pastels in sepia tones (We used a burnt sienna, yellow ocre, a peach color, and a reddish brown that was actually conte. I love the chalk pastels because they are easy to use, don’t cause any lasting mess, and they allow everyone to make work that looks very artsy, even without experience.)

Yep, that’s it! I always start our art lessons with a picture study because I believe that art production is only 1 part of what the kids should be learning- Art History and Art Appreciation are also important. Art Appreciation and Art History are very important because in the end, only a small percentage of the population will actually end up being Art producers long term, but appreciating the fine arts is a valuable skill that will last a lifetime.

The basic idea of a picture study is that you look at the artwork several minutes silently, taking the image into your “mind’s eye” until you can still remember all the details even when you’re not looking at it anymore. After a few minutes, you turn the picture over, and take turns sharing the details until you can’t remember anymore, then you look at the picture again. I have found this method of study very powerful in growing art appreciation in children and adults. Too often, we look at a piece of art and we want to jump straight to “do I like it or not like it?” and that’s not the point of art. You can get more details on how to conduct your own picture study here. Here are the kids studying the Mona Lisa.

charlotte mason picture study, leonardo da vinci

After the picture study, we talked about how da Vinci did not finish his nativity painting, Adoration of the Maji, and that this was the under painting. We talked about what that means, what their process was for painting back then, and how sometimes we get distracted and don’t finish things as well. Then we talked about sepia tone and what that means.

da vinci adoration of the maji

Then we read Getting To Know The World’s Famous Artists, Da Vinci. I really like these little books, and we collect them as we study each artist (3 per year.) I like them for the composers as well, but I like the art ones even better because they have the actual art in the book. It’s not their fault that what the composers did was less visual, but still.

Then we started our Art Production. Start with your brown paper, and have the kids draw the simple stable with a light color. You want this to fill about 1/3 of the paper in the middle. They’re starting in a light color so they can re-do it if they get the scale wrong. Having this the right size will help them size the entire picture right, filling the paper, but not running out of room.

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When they have the sizing right, have them go over it with a darker color. Having both colors will also help it look less flat.

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Next, add 2 circles for Mary and Joseph’s heads, leaving space in between for baby Jesus.

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Have them draw 2 lines for the body- we’re going for no stick figures here.

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Baby Jesus gets started as an oval with a circle inside.

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Once you have the no-stick-figure look, encourage the children to add some of their own details to the pictures. This is what gives them their character! You can make some easy praying hands by drawing 2 “waves” on the body, then a line in the middle.

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Next, draw 3 circles for the heads of the kings.

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Draw the king’s long robes.

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They’re going to all be facing the stable, so make 2 arms coming out from the front of each king.

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Using your yellow ocre, give each king a different shaped gift.

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Use the same yellow ocre to put crowns on the kings. (My friend described the crowns to her non-artistic 5 year old as an “m that keeps on going”) They can also add their own details to the kings, giving them their own flair.

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On the other side of the stable, put in another circle and body for the shepherd.

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Add arms, circle hands, and a shepherd’s staff.

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Then have them draw on some sheep. They can use their own flair for this.

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If they haven’t already, encourage them to color in their shapes. They can use the side of the chalk and smudge to fill it in- no reason to bare down and make piles of chalk dust. They can also add a scribble of hay under baby Jesus, and a dark “x” for the manger. Encourage the children to add their own personality in! This would also be a good time to add in some extra animals if they want to (donkey, cow, birds… whatever).

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Make a big star on the top of the stable with light rays coming out. Then add little dots to the rest of the sky for smaller stars.

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Scribble some hay in the bottom of the stable.

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Using the side of several different colors of chalk pastels, add in a ground at the bottom.

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That’s it! Here are my kiddos (and some of our friends that we do co-op with) working on theirs.

nativity art project for kids

simple nativity art project

kid nativity drawing

I had one that got away with stick figures while I wasn’t paying enough attention- whoops!

how to draw an easy nativity with kids

how to draw a nativity with kids

I love seeing the different personalities these take on! 🙂

nativty drawing by kids

That’s it- sweet and simple. So… I’ve actually been teaching Art lessons for years now, and never posting them here. Some of them are of Religious subjects, but most of them aren’t. I’m going to start putting them up here (as time allows) and so I went ahead and made a navigation page for my art projects here where you’ll be able to locate all of them easily once they’re published.

More Nativity Resources For Families

You do not want to miss my nativity round up for kids that includes crafts, book suggestions, traditions, songs, printables, and more! Check it out now.

The Advent Christmas Planner- available from Catholic Icing


  1. This is beautiful! We love reading all about the crafts that you share. We love crafting too, check us out at