Discovery Point Blog
Talking to Children About and Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” When it comes to teaching our kids about what is right and what is wrong, there is no time like the present.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day for short) offers an excellent opportunity to show children of all ages the importance of standing up for what is right. In 2022, MLK Day falls on Monday, January 17. If you’re looking for some creative ways to help your children understand the significance of this national holiday, take a peek at our tips below.
Start Small By Laying a Foundation of Understanding
Dr. King’s legacy surrounds many big issues you may worry your child will have trouble understanding. However, the heart of what he stood for is simple to grasp:
Everyone should be treated equally, no matter what they look like or what they believe.
Children often begin to understand the concept of fairness at quite a young age, so fairness is usually a good point of reference to start your conversation with. If your child is a bit older, you could expand upon the history of MLK Day by explaining who Martin Luther King Jr. was and the ideals he made his life mission.
You may also want to touch on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As one of the most famous and inspirational speeches of the modern era, this speech was inspiring when it was first uttered nearly 60 years ago, and is still inspiring today. Drawing on the ideas presented in this speech, ask your children about their dreams and what inspires them. Discuss ways in which we all can make the world a better place, just as Dr. King urged people to do.
After exploring the issue of fairness with your children and discussing their hopes and dreams, you may want to turn to a book to further illustrate the important concepts MLK Day represents. Reading a book aloud together will give your child the chance to contemplate the conversation you’ve had and ask questions as you explore the life of this historical figure.
There are a vast range of options to choose from depending on your child’s reading level and interests. Here are some we recommend:
- National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr. A Level 3 reader that answers the question, “Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?”
- A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. An easy-to-read picture book and biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin’s Dream: Ready-to-Read Level 1. A simple but informative book for young readers.
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A biography told in Dr. King’s own words that shows why he is known as one of the greatest speakers of the twentieth century.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A Level 1 reader that follows a class of young learners as they honor MLK Day.
- I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. A picture book biography with fun comic-book-style illustrations as well as photos from history.
Help Put Understanding Into Practice with Fun Projects
After talking over big ideas, we all need time to process what we’ve learned. Crafts and creative projects help us do just that. Two of our favorite hands-on activities for celebrating the day honoring MLK Jr. are below.
“I Have a Dream” Printable
This simple printable can help consolidate what children have learned about taking steps to change the world. After having children fill them out and discussing their answers, hang the completed printables on the fridge or in another spot where they will be seen each day. This will serve as a reminder to children to work towards achieving their dreams of a better world for all.
Cut handprints out of construction paper, including as many skin tones as possible. Arrange the hands to form a blooming flower, and craft a flower stem and leaves from green construction paper. Glue all the pieces down onto a background of your choice to create a beautiful and symbolic work of art.
Take Action to Make the World a Better Place
After talking about what they can do to make the world a better place, your children may feel ready to take action. There are plenty of ways in which they can use their time and energy to help others, and starting at a young age is a great way to make getting involved a lifelong habit. Check the “MLK Day of Service” page at the Americorps.gov website to find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to volunteer in your local community
Make MLK Day a meaningful national holiday for your children by helping them understand why this day is dedicated to remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ideals he espoused. With this fundamental understanding, they can feel encouraged to make the world a better place, just as Dr. King did in his time.