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1/11/2023

5 Ways to Honor MLK Jr. Day with Young Children

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At the beginning of each new year, we pause to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this year, we encourage you to bring your young child into the conversation.

Whether your baby is in Pre-K or just turned four weeks old, they can help celebrate Dr. King. From reading to your child about MLK to teaching them what it means to protest peacefully, there are some great ways to introduce young children to these big concepts. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed everyone should be treated fairly and with kindness and respect – no matter where they came from, what religion they practiced or what color their skin was. When people weren’t being treated fairly, Dr. King organized protests to demand change.

Raising a future generation of good humans starts at home. It starts with calling out injustices when we see them, giving a voice to people who need help being heard and honoring leaders and lessons of the past. 

Here are 5 ways to honor MLK Day with young children.

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years)

  • Read Books about MLK. Reading to your child about Martin Luther King is a great way to teach them about Dr. King’s work and dreams. Your local library will have a display with dozens of MLK Day picks this month, but here are some of our favorites:

    1. Goodnight, Martin Luther King, Jr. is a board book that includes Dr. King’s personal life and leadership, the Great March on Washington, speeches, protests, Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and more.
    2. Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? chronicles Dr. King’s life in super succinct text, with just a few sentences per page.
    3. My Little Golden Book About Martin Luther King, Jr. is a more in depth biography, explaining how Dr. King’ s segregated childhood and his father’s church shaped his future as a civil rights leader.

Preschoolers (2-5 years)

  • “I Have a Dream” Craft. Pair this sweet “I Have a Dream” craft with a conversation about Dr. King’s dream. You can even show your child a video clip of his speech on the Lincoln Memorial.

    1. Cut cloud shapes out of paper.
    2. Ask your child what they think could be done to help everyone be friends. Answers could include being nice, helping, holding hands. Add to clouds.
    3. Help your child hang their dream clouds together!
  • Make Protest Signs Together. Show your child photos of protest signs used during Dr. King’s speeches and photos of protest signs from events you have attended or supported. Take time to show your child protest signs around your neighborhood; point out the flags and yard signs that speak out against injustice and for inclusion. Then help your child make their own protest sign.

    1. Grab a paint stick and some cardboard and talk about what you want your message to be. Examples: Love Everyone; Be Nice; Equality Now.
    2. Help your child march their new sign around the block, then display your signs in your neighborhood-facing windows.
  • Attend an MLK Day Parade (or have your own!). Take your child to the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in your community if there is one. Bring your homemade protest sign with you!

    If your community doesn’t have a planned event, create one of your one! Ask neighborhood friends or your child’s classmates to join you for a walk around your neighborhood in honor of Dr. King. Make the walk interactive by encouraging your children to sing, chant and carry their protest signs!
  • Birthday Cards / Thank You Cards. Make a birthday card or a thank you card for Dr. King with your child. You can draw and write your own card for your child to model. Cut a piece of paper down to size, draw a picture on the front and a note on the inside. Something like: “Happy Birthday, Dr. King! Thank you for working so hard to make sure all people are treated fairly, no matter where they’re from or what they look like.”
  • Make a Fairness List. Treating people fairly is a key tenant of Dr. King’s teaching. Ask your child/ren to help make a list of ways you can help treat people with fairness around your house & community.

    Examples of fairness within your home might include asking your children to pick up their own toys or bring their own plate to the kitchen after mealtime. As a family, you can show an example of kindness in your community by donating food to a local community pantry or unused toys to community donation centers.
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