Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most famous civil rights activists of the modern movement. While your kids may be enjoying their day off of school by sleeping in or having extra time to play, this holiday offers a unique opportunity to introduce them to an important figure in our nation’s history and to have conversations about race and justice.
Below is a list of tips and activities to help you begin a family conversation about Martin Luther King Jr. and his life’s work focused on civil rights.
The first step to observing this holiday is to understand why it’s an important day on the calendar. As a parent, start by familiarizing yourself with Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and message. The King Center website is a great starting point.
Introduce MLK Jr. to Your Kids
Take a few minutes to introduce (or re-introduce) your child to Martin Luther King Jr.—who he was, what he did, and his message. Here are a few really great videos:
- BrainPop's video + additional lesson pieces
- This hand-drawn video for kids
- Kid President's quick summary video
Find Engaging Activities
Print out coloring pages, worksheets, word searches, crosswords, and other activities that teach additional facts about Martin Luther King Jr. and reinforce his core message. These sites have a plethora of activities for kids of all ages:
- Activity Village
- Teacher Vision
- ABC Teach
- Enchanted Learning
- K12 Reader
- Cupcake for the Teacher
- Education World
Reflect on MLK Jr.’s Message
Spend some time talking about how Martin Luther King Jr.'s message applies to our lives today. For kids who are old enough to write, ask them to reflect upon a prompt and journal or illustrate their answer. Holiday Zine and Journal Buddies are two great sites with various prompts to consider. For younger children, choose a prompt and ask them to draw their answer.
Make MLK Jr.’s Favorite Snack
Food is an important way to understand culture and where someone grew up. Create one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite recipes for a snack or meal today. You can find recipes at Scrumptious Chef, Social Moms, Five Star Home Foods, and Bella Online.
Do Good in Your Community
In the spirit of MLK Jr. Day, get involved in bettering your community. This list shares a variety of community service ideas or you can come up with your own!
Go Beyond the Holiday
Don't limit talk about Martin Luther King Jr.'s life work to MLK Jr. Day or Black History Month / African American History Month in February. Racial inequality and racism are not just problems of the past—as we’ve seen especially in recent years, these are issues still very much alive today. Focus on reading books by diverse authors, and continue to educate yourself and your family not only on the discrimination the Black community has faced and continues to face in America, but also on the amazing work Black leaders have done to make the world a better and more joyful place. Opening the Road by Keila Dawson is a great place to start.
We are each called to lead change and fight for justice. This important work begins in our home and immediate community, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides us with an opportunity to start this work with our kids.
Originally Published 1/18/2016