Dr. Martin Luther King sometimes may seem like a person in history who was larger than life. When it comes to our children, it can be hard getting them to understand that he was a real person who lived and died to better the treatment of others. Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t only a civil rights leader, he was a scholar, a husband, father, preacher, author and more. He was a phenomenal person who is remembered because of his selfless contributions within the civil rights movement.
So if you want to teach your children about Dr. King, start with him as a family man. He loved his children. Also, let your children know that there are still people who are alive that met Dr. King. My friend, and Monday’s Live co-host, Dr. Janus Adams met Dr. Martin Luther King when she was ten years old. Listen to her share her story in the monologue “Raised By Dr. King.”
As you begin to paint the picture about who he was, you can use the following methods to engage your children.
One of the best ways to implement a day of learning for younger children is to pick one item from each category.
There are many books for kids of all ages written about Dr. King’s life and the American Civil Rights Movement. Check with your local library, and here are a few that I suggest:
- “I Have a Dream” by Dr Martin Luther King Jr (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)
- “Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You” by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author), James E. Ransome (Illustrator)
- “Martin Luther King Jr.: A Peaceful Leader” by Sarah Albee (Author), Chin Ko (Illustrator)
Dr. King is young enough that you can pull up an excerpt of his exact voice on YouTube. Along with that, you can use Brain Pop. They have child-friendly videos, lesson plans, and quizzes. Typically for holidays they offer a free related video if you don’t have an account.
Learn Out Loud has a combination of several audio recordings of Dr. King.
Martin’s Big Words is found on Amazon Prime Video and free for Prime Members.
To get kids to understand about segregation and separation An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win – Season 101 breaks down the information on a child’ level.
Over the years people have created many crafts with Dr. King’s image and objectives in mind.
Some children don’t mind worksheets, but using a crossword puzzle, activity or coloring sheet can help them engage with the information you tell them about him.
Here is a link to a few Dr. King printable pages and crafts for kids.
6. Volunteer / Acts of Service
One fundamental truth about Dr. King was that he served others. On King Day, we reflect on his teachings and actively try to do something positive in our own communities. So finding a way to do community service is important. Some possible volunteer suggestions work at a food bank, collect or donate clothes for the needy, sew masks or other things that people may need and donate them to a community center that accepts the types of items you create.
The King Center: The Center for Nonviolent social change is an American historical landmark, educational center, and the final resting place of Dr. King. It is located in Atlanta Georgia, but if you and your family do not live in GA, there are many places that may have a statue or park to commemorate his legacy.
8. Attend Free events or discounted activities
- All across the US National Parks are free on Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
- Virtual events and radio shows celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy
9. Read or Recite Poetry
Consider having your child learn Dr. King quotes. Some kids will also be drawn to hear and possible learn poems about the legendary Dr. King and his life contributions.
One of my favorite recordings is listening to my 6 year old daughter read Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” So my advice would be to also go a step further and record your child saving a few of his affirming quotes. Here are a few that I’d suggest:
- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
10. Visit a play, musical, or another production made in his honor
I’m not certain that any of theaters will be open during our current pandemic, but you may be able to find recordings or live virtual events online.
Here are a few:
- Dancing in Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (This one is great for younger children)
After you watch the Alvin Ailey dance video, ask your child the following questions:
How did the dance make you feel?
What did you learn from the dance?
What is one word that you remember that was used to describe Dr. King?
Look up the word, share the meaning, and make a new sentence related to the life of Dr. King.