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Learning through Play: 6 Kid-Friendly Activities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Teach kids about diversity through play.

Each year we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday of January (this year it falls on the 21st).

It’s a time to pause and reflect on his life and his vision for America, on how far we’ve come as a nation, and how far we still have to go to achieve King’s dream of equality for all.

According to the King Center, it’s “an occasion for joy and celebration for his life and his work toward nonviolent social change in America and the world. Traditionally, we celebrate holidays with parties, family picnics, fireworks, a trip back home or to the seashore. However, we must also be mindful that this is a special holiday – one which symbolizes our nation’s commitment to peace through justice; to universal brother- and sisterhood; and to the noblest ideal of all: a democratic society based on the principles of freedom, justice and equality for all people…The holiday is an occasion for thanksgiving, unselfishness, and rededicating ourselves to the causes for which he stood and for which he died.”

Share King’s life and philosophy with kids by teaching them through play. Here are six great ideas for kid-friendly MLK Day activities.

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  • Help Kids Create a Timeline 1 of 6
    Help Kids Create  a Timeline
    There are great ways to incorporate lessons into play. One easy approach is to read an age-appropriate book about Dr. King, then print photos and create a visual timeline of his life.
  • Volunteer as a Family 2 of 6
    Volunteer as a Family
    Since MLK Day was intended to be a day of service and reflection, what better way to spend it than to volunteer in your community? The possibilities are endless— serve a meal at a shelter or soup kitchen, donate toys or other items to a charity— but what's important is that you spend part of the day thinking about King's commitment to making the world a better place.
  • Read Books Together 3 of 6
    Read Books Together
    So many great children's books have been written about King and the civil rights movement. This list is a great resource to get started!
    Martin's Big Words, available at Amazon, $7.99
  • Listen to the “I Have a Dream” Speech 4 of 6
    Listen to the "I Have a Dream" Speech
    Listening to King's famous "I Have a Dream" Speech is a wonderful opportunity for kids to understand what his vision for our country was all about. Download it here.
  • Talk about Diversity through Play 5 of 6
    Talk about Diversity through Play
    Kids learn best through play. This multicultural stick puppets activity is a great way to teach your kids about diversity and accepting others who may be different from themselves.
    Photo Credit: Share & Remember
  • Take a Field Trip 6 of 6
    Take a Field Trip
    Spend the day visiting a site that is significant in the civil rights movement. The National Parks Service has a great list on their website. If you aren't able to make the trip, use the internet to create a virtual experience!

More by Mary Lauren

Sharing the Dream: 10 Children’s Books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Navigating the Parent/Teacher Relationship: 10 Tips from Both Sides of the Classroom Door

7 Surprising Facts about Cold and Flu in Kids

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