Honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a day of learning and giving back on Monday, January 17. Celebrate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader and use the day to teach your kids about our history, how to be anti-racist, and the importance of giving back. Try these family-friendly activities to start conversations, learn, and make an impact together.
Check out these Martin Luther King, Jr.inspired children's books that you can read throughout MLK Day or invite the neighborhood kids over for storytime. For older children, implement a reading challenge.
- Be a King by Carole Boston Weatherford (all ages)
- I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kadir Nelson (picture book)
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III (ages 4-8)
- My America: Freedom's Wings: Corey's Underground Railroad Diary, Book One by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (ages 7-10)
- Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi (all ages)
- The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biography Book for New Readers by Christine Platt (ages 6-9)
- Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan (ages 7-10)
Social media can also be a great resource for discovering new books and ways to teach your children about being anti-racist. The Conscious Kid and HereWeeRead are a couple of our favorite accounts to learn from.
Volunteer with Your Community
Many people spend MLK Day working on community service programs, and it's an excellent opportunity to teach your children the value of giving back. Check your local non-profit organizations for opportunities, or visit Charity Navigator or Support Black Charities to search for non-profits that are Black-owned or support the Black community.
Fun Home Lessons
If you're staying in on MLK Day, curate fun and educational activities with the kids while telling them the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. – in an age-appropriate way.
- We love blogger Mama Jenn's homeschool activities and crafts like this MLK handprint craft!
- Make this Diversity Sensory Bin craft from Happy Toddler Playtime and talk to your toddlers about race as you scoop up beans of different colors. It’s never to early to start teaching your littles about race and how to be anti-racist.
- Create a Solidarity Sticky Wall and as you add different skin tones to the wall, talk to your children about race. Keep the wall up and make it a regular activity and opportunity to speak about the topic often, not just on MLK Day.
- Teach your little ones about dreaming big and making a difference by working together to write and draw pictures of your dreams for a more inclusive world. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for the country, use this activity to help your family think about the possibilities they can create to build a better future.
Check Your Local Library
Make it a family field trip day! Check your local library for public readings or kid storytime focused on MLK Day or other similar activities. Find out if the local schools or theaters are hosting performances.
If your local library is closed or has limited in-person services, check their website for virtual programs and activities, digital title suggestions, and other online resources for kids.
Carry the Message Forward
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to the National Association of TV and Radio Announcers in 1967: "… We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools."
This important message reminds us that to be a part of a community, we must be kind, do kind things for our neighbors, and stand up against hate, bullying and racism — all things that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for. Use the day to help your littles learn about compassion and empathy for themselves and others around them. Spend MLK Day giving back with these ideas that everyone can join in on.
- Share freshly baked cookies and other goodies with the local fire department.
- Go through unused (or underused!) pet toys and donate in-person to the local shelter.
- Practice the art of letter writing and leave them in your elderly neighbors' mailboxes, or stop by a senior center in your community.
- Bring balloons or flowers to someone going through a difficult time.
If we all do a little something, we can make a big difference.
As parents and caregivers, it’s important for us to do the work in educating ourselves so we can lead by example and create a better future for the next generation. Here are a few resources we’ve found helpful:
- An Antiracist Reading List: a list of books to help understand the history of racism in the United States and dismantle racism in your own life.
- Embrace Race: a non-profit dedicated to racing a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.
- National Equity Project: an organization dedicated to transforming the experiences, outcomes, and life options for children and families who have been historically underserved by our institutions and systems.
How are you honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. with your kids this year? We'd love to read about the activities in your communities and the resources you share with your family. Share with us below!