Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Kids

Here are some ideas to explain the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact to children.

Our country will come together on Jan. 15 to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who worked tirelessly to advance racial equity and justice. We put together a list of ways your family can honor his legacy together throughout the year.

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

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, making it a great 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 start creating.

Make a “peace” craft 

Here’s another way to honor MLK’s messages of peace and love through artwork. Paint peace signs, create a 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 and exhibits in your area

Chicago and the suburbs usually has family events to help commemorate the day. Check out our calendar to find this year’s events. We also suggest checking out these two MLK-related exhibits: King Day at DuSable Museum of African American History and Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Chicago History Museum.  

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.

After listening to the speech, visit Reverend Siddha Webber’s “I Have a Dream” mural in Bronzeville on the 3900 block of south Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago.

Participate in a service project

Did you also know that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is also observed as a day of service? Your family can make an impact for your community in honor of Dr. King with these service projects.  

The Honeycomb Project also coordinates family-friendly volunteer opportunities on Dr. King’s birthday and throughout the year. Volunteering can help kids learn the value of service and set them up for a lifetime of helping others.

Visit the DuSable Black History Museum

Bring the whole family to the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center (740 E. 56th Place, Chicago) any day of the year and explore the exhibits that place the narrative of Black people firmly within the broader context of United States history.

Get inspired by Chicago art

Visit the many pieces of public art honoring Dr. King Jr. throughout Chicago. Let the beauty encourage your family to create your own art exploring themes of peace and justice:

  • Three brick towers make up the “MLK Living Memorial” on the southwest corner of 67th Street and Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. It was installed by Sonja Henderson and John Pitman Weber to commemorate Dr. King’s historic Chicago Freedom Movement march through Marquette Park in 1966.
  • The 9-foot-tall sculpture “Our King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” was installed by Geraldine McCullough at 4800 W. Chicago Ave. Encourage your kids to find symbols of peace on the sculpture, including a dove, cross, Tibetan prayer wheel and globe and point out Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize medal around his neck.

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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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