Here are 15 inspiring MLK Jr. Day activities for kids to help us remember the great man, the dream he shared and the lessons he taught us.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
How would you feel if you were asked to sit in the back of the bus, stand in a separate line, or wait for everyone else – all because your skin was a certain color? You’d feel that it was unfair and unjust, and you would speak out.
Well, in a nutshell, that is what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did. Only, because of the time he did it, and the prevailing circumstances at the time, it was a brave and heroic thing to do, and it changed the lives of millions of people in America and the world!
Who is Martin Luther King Jr.?
Martin Luther King Jr., also called MLK Jr., was an American minister, but he is known for his role in the civil rights movement in the United States. He was a big proponent of non-violence, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ. It is thanks to his efforts that several discriminatory American laws were done away with.
When is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
Today, MLK Jr. is a global icon and one that has inspired generations of activists in several countries. For his contributions towards ending racial segregation, he was awarded the Nobel Prize, and the third Monday of January is celebrated in his honor as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Since this special day is coming up on 16th January, we think it’s a great time to try out some MLK Jr. Day activities for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children as young as 2 can internalize race and any bias based on it, making this an important conversation to have.
We can talk about how it’s beautiful to have different skin tones rather than everyone looking the same. It is important to help kids understand that a person’s skin color in no way dictates their goodness, talent, ability, or intelligence and that everyone’s exactly the same on the inside.
We hope these MLK Jr. Day activities for kids help in getting this message across, at least to some extent. It’s the perfect way to learn about a man who’s become a global icon and revolutionary!
15 Inspiring MLK Jr. Day Activities for Kids
One of the things about MLK Jr. that most people know is that he gave a famous speech that began with ‘I have a dream’. This was at a 1963 rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, attended by over 250,000 people. Today, these words are etched on the steps of the memorial. Lucky Little Learners has a cute activity based on these famous words, using a rainbow as a base.
As the world gets smaller and more people migrate to various parts of the world, it is important for children to understand the concept of diversity. Montessori from the Heart has a lovely project that brings out this message beautifully, in a way children can understand.
Happy Toddler Playtime shows us that even young children can get involved in MLK Jr. Day activities for kids! It’s a fun little project to show kids that there are people of all colors and races living in different countries across the globe.
In 1955, American buses had separate seating areas for black and white people. One day, a woman named Rosa Parks refused to adhere to this and this escalated into widespread outrage. It triggered MLK Jr. to organize a bus boycott, which ultimately resulted in ending segregation laws. No Time for Flash Cards encourages us to think of ways we can change the world too, which could be a simple action like holding your ground.
We love this activity from Sunshine Whispers, which shows hands of all skin colors coming together to create a beautiful wreath – perfect for MLK Jr. Day! Have you wondered MLK Jr. got his name? Well, he was actually named Michael King Jr., and his father was Michael King Sr. The senior King was greatly influenced by a German monk named Martin Luther, after which he changed both his and his son’s names.
It is impossible to talk about MLK Jr. Day activities for kids without mentioning how he preferred the path of non-violence, as this craft by Happy Toddler Playtime reminds us of. He was introduced to Gandhiji’s idea of non-violence through his activist friends.
JDaniel4’s Mom brings us a craft that acts as another reminder that kindness and peace can bring about great change as Gandhi showed us. MLK Jr. was so intrigued about Gandhi that he went to India to learn more. This visit had a deep impact on him, and he wrote an account of his trip for Ebony magazine titled, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi”. Today, there is a garden called The Gandhi-King Plaza at the India International Center in New Delhi.
MLK Jr. is known for his fiery speeches, a talent he had since his high school years, putting him on the school’s debate team. There is also a statue of him standing in Washington D.C. and thanks to this project from Carly and Adam, you can have your very own MLK Jr. figure with a podium!
Young children don’t have to feel left out of doing these MLK Jr. Day activities for kids, especially since we have easy crafts like this one from Grey Skies & Rainbow Highs. Antiracist artwork reminds us that MLK Jr. wasn’t just fighting for Black Americans – he was also a staunch supporter of the rights of Native American people.
This handprint craft from Happy Toddler Playtime is such a cute activity for toddlers and preschoolers! MLK Jr. had a family who shared his beliefs. His father was an activist too, as was his wife, Coretta Scott. He had four children, all of whom were involved in activism in some form or the other.
11. Freedom Bell
In one of his speeches, MLK Jr. said, “Let freedom ring!” Since then, ringing the Liberty Bell has been a tradition for important days and of course, MLK Jr. Day. It’s only fair then, to include this freedom bell craft from Sweet Party Place in our list of MLK Jr. Day activities for kids!
With his continuous protests and rallies, MLK Jr. was a nuisance for the authorities, and he was constantly bombarded with cases and arrests – he was arrested 29 times! He was even attacked with a knife at an event, but being the man that he was, he decided to forgive his attacker. Remind kids of this message of peace, with the perfect craft from Supply Me.
MLK Jr. was quite a smart man. He joined the college at the age of 15 and graduated by the time he was 19. He went on to study further, and ended up getting his Ph.D. at the young age of 25! Learn more about this amazing man with this portrait lesson from Deep Space Sparkle.
Art Projects for Kids brings us an MLK Jr. drawing tutorial that inspires kids to learn a little more about the man. Did you know that he was greatly interested in fashion? He was always well dressed in polished, leather shoes and well-tailored tweed suits, which earned him the name “Tweedie”.
Barley and Birch has an interesting addition to this list of MLK Jr. Day activities for kids – a collage of him at a rally. MLK Jr. was one of the most admired people of his time. He was awarded over 50 honorary degrees and was named Time Person of the Year in 1963. In 1964, he became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize for nonviolent resistance to racial inequality.
Bonus – Martin Luther King Jr. Printable
Enhance your knowledge about MLK Jr. with this free printable – Martin Luther King Jr Fact Sheet + Word search. This printable is free for all paid members during January. Get your copy today from our January 2023 Bundle.
Race and discrimination are heavy topics, and it can feel a little overwhelming to talk to young children about it. That’s why little projects like these MLK Jr. Day activities for kids are useful to help introduce the subject. You can talk as much or as little as you want in the beginning, depending on your child’s age and cognitive ability. It is said that Martin Luther King had his first experience with racial discrimination at just six years of age, so it’s never too early to broach the subject. Let’s raise a generation of kind, compassionate and loving individuals!