We have been doing the same gift for parents for the past 3 or 4 years, and have the whole process down to a science. For approximately 25 children, plan on a week plus a day to get this all done.
To do ahead of time:
1. Make a shepherd costume. (We have 2 for faster photographing.) You can whip up one yourself or follow these easy costume plans.
2. Buy a bunch of plain wooden frames from Michael’s. They are usually $1. If you can’t find them, look for some other cheap frame option, such as a cardboard frame from Hobby Lobby. (Only buy them when they are 50% off, though.)
There are three parts to this whole process, which is why you should give yourself plenty of time. A week and a half before Christmas break is not too soon to start. You can be working on these three parts at the same time if you have an aide.
I have a manger that I made several years ago that collapses and stores well throughout the rest of the year. You can find plans for it here, or you can just use a wooden or cardboard box. Truly, whatever you use will be fine. We dress the child as a shepherd, give them a stuffed sheep (ours is a puppet) to hold, pin a dark blanket on the wall as a backdrop, and snap away with a digital camera. Take several poses so you have a good selection. You can either print them out yourself or at a store.
Here’s a final sample:
(The tree in the background is our housekeeping tree. You can read more about that here.)
Ahead of time, unwrap the frames and save the little cardboard insert. That comes in handy to provide backing for the photo. (Optional: I cut pieces of transparency sheets as the ‘glass’ for the photo since the frames don’t come with any. It’s not necessary, but it’s nice.)
I let the children paint the frames with liquid watercolor since it dries quickly and is more like ‘staining’ the wood. They love this part and it’s very ‘child-created’.
WRAPPING PAPER –
The easiest way to do this is to fold a large piece of 12 x 18 paper in half and let the child decorate one side and on the other side write TO MOM AND DAD FROM (Name). The writing part is an excellent time to see who can copy letters on their own and who needs help. You can always dot the letters and use your Name Cards for those who need help.
The decorated side can be done many ways. I have a nativity stamp that we’ve used one year, or you can teach them a simple way to draw a nativity scene and read about it here.
Ok, some things you need to so on your own: 1) Glue the bottom and sides of the papers and weigh them down while they dry. 2)Get prints of the children made. 3) Round up some ribbon and a hole punch. 4) Pre-assemble the photo and frame. I’ve had the children help with this in the past, but it’s really just them watching me work, and that’s not helping anybody.
When it’s time to wrap them, I have the child punch two holes at the top, put the frame in, and thread a piece of ribbon through then we tie it. It sounds simple, but it takes a whole day to get everyone’s done.
(Optional: This year I had them tell me the Nativity story and I printed it up to put on the back of the photo. It was a nice touch, but it was quite a bit more work.)