Fast forward to the present. My toddler is in a definite "must touch EVERYTHING" phase, so I've been trying to find a relatively indestructible nativity for him to play with at Christmastime since I probably won't be able to set out any of my lovely breakable ones this year. The cute plastic ones for kids are surprisingly expensive and Craigslist and eBay were failing me, so it was time come up with plan B. Then I was reminded of the crocheted nativity I'd made earlier and I decided to make another set for our family to keep.
I decided to make all of my figures using a size F (3.75 mm) crochet hook in order to make them a little smaller and to keep the stitches tighter. Instead of switching colors, I decided to make the body one uniform color to make their robes look longer. And I made a small change in the arm pattern by repeating round 9 twice before finishing off instead of following round 10 because I liked the look of it better that way.
Instead of filling tights to weight the body, I used small drawstring favor bags that I got in a multipack at the dollar store. I filled mine about 2/3 full and then tied them off with a double knot before adding them to the body. Whatever you do, you should definitely put the plastic pellets inside of something before you add them to the body; I made the mistake of just pouring them straight into the body the first time I made this pattern and they started popping out of the stitches, but it was too late to fix it (sorry!).
You could crochet the headpieces, but it will give you a heavier, chunkier fabric that won't flow as well and might make the figure top-heavy. So if you want a washable non-knit option, you may want to try sewing on a piece of fabric instead.
On Joseph's headpiece, I decided to embellish a bit by adding a tie. I cut yarn long enough to wrap around his head and tie in the back. Then I used a little bit of coordinating yarn to make two small stitches on the sides of his headpiece to hold the tie in place. If your nativity will be for display only, you can skip this step, but it's already proved useful for keeping everything in place during playtime.
Edit: You can now find the free patterns for the baby and manger here and the free patterns for the other nativity accessories here.