How to Celebrate the Life and Work of Martin Luther King Jr. With Your Children

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It always feels like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day gets the cold shoulder what with Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away. Many homes already have big red hearts hanging in their windows. While fun holidays are often more exciting for our children, it’s important to reflect on the serious ones too.


Fortunately, there are some wonderful children’s books, movies and games aimed at helping children understand King’s work and the impact his life had on others.

Whether or not you’re able to be together soon, you can share these resources with your children leading up to January 20:

The Youngest Marcher: The True Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Right Activist
Written by Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

It’s hard for kids to grasp how bad race relationships used to be. We still have a long way to go, for sure, but knowing that blacks and whites had to use different water fountains doesn’t always drive the point home. Cynthia Levinson manages to create a charming, inspirational story in The Youngest Marcher that touches on the more serious aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. Your kids will be shocked to learn how 9-year-old Audrey went to jail for participating in a children’s march and what it meant to kids everywhere.

An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win
An Amazon Prime Original

Kids of today may connect with this story more than they expect. Set in 1963, 10-year-old Melody is a bubbly, optimistic girl from Detroit who struggles to deal with the terrifying events unfolding on her TV screen. Dr. King’s famous I Have a Dream speech helped change that fear into hope for the future.

Looney Labs

If your children are tweens or teens, then Chrononauts, a card game in which you play a time traveler with the ability to change the course of history, is a fun and interesting way to learn about the importance of historical figures. MLK Jr. included! Ample videos on YouTube and GameBoardGeeks to help parents teach their kids how to play, along with hints and tips at winning and how to make the game more immersive.

Bevy & Dave

If your children are younger, consider buying puzzles or games through Bevy & Dave, an indie toy shop where all the materials are created by Virginia mom Tiffney T. Laing with an emphasis on black representation. Even young children can discuss the inclusion of black children in the creation of games and toys. You can tie that into how Martin Luther King, Jr. presented a new representation of black men in American media and the impact that had on the Civil Rights Movement.

How to Inspire Your Children to Make a Difference

Some people forget how fun and fulfilling it can be to stand up for things you care about. Use MLK Jr. Day to encourage your children to think about the issues they care about the most and brainstorm ways they can make a change for the better. Make sure to focus on things they’ll enjoy while volunteering.

Here are just a few opportunities your children might enjoy and feel good about:

– Petting and playing with dogs and cats at the humane society (aka socializing)
– Cleaning up a neighborhood park while visiting for fun
– Teaching nursing home residents to play new games
– Working toward a Presidential Volunteer Service Award or an America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass

Sometimes dads struggle to feel relevant in their children’s lives when they’re not there all the time, but there are plenty of ways you can influence their futures for the good. Even at a distance. Take advantage of the opportunities holidays like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day give parents to make an impact.

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