5 ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with your kids

It can be tough to explain to children the significance of the civil rights movement and the impact Martin Luther King, Jr. made as an activist. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for families when it comes to this heavy subject matter. These projects, books, events and activities will help familiarize your children with MLK and the themes of equality and peace on a level they can understand. If your child has Martin Luther King, Jr. day off from school, set aside some time to learn about the civil rights leader together. 

Read “I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World)”

According to reviews, this biography is perfect for elementary students who are being introduced to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message for the first time. The book explores MLK’s life and fight for justice while staying appropriate for young children and serving as a conversation starter.  

Color a picture of MLK 

Sometimes the easiest way for a child to learn is through art. These free printables from Crayola are simple and age appropriate, plus they could be a good way to follow up reading an MLK book together. Grab some crayons and markers and get to creating. 

Make a “peace” craft 

Here’s another way to honor MLK’s messages of peace and love through artwork. Paint peace signs, create paper dove garland or paint a dove using your child’s handprint. These crafts are easy and fun for preschoolers and elementary school kids, plus you probably already have the supplies needed around your house. 

Attend MLK events in your area

Chicago and the suburbs have plenty of free family events to help commemorate the day, including Museum of Science and Industry’s Black Creativity Family Day and Chicago History Museum’s MLK Day event. Each of the museums has activities for both younger and older children, and explore MLK’s message through poetry, art, music, and science. Check with your local library to see if they’re holding their own celebrations as well. 

Watch the “I Have a Dream” speech

For older kids, watching the speech that Dr. King famously gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is a powerful way to hear his message. Despite taking place almost 55 years ago, King’s words resonate just as strongly today.


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This story was originally published on Jan. 10, 2018. It has been updated with the most recent information.

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