15 MLK JR Day Activities for Kids to Learn About Martin Luther King Jr.
Every year, the nation gathers to remember and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King didn't just fight for civil rights; he sought peace, equality, and diversity. He was an extraordinary man who devoted his life to fighting for equality for others and to promoting rights for African-Americans during the American Civil Rights Movement..
While those concepts may be difficult for preschoolers and little ones to comprehend, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn about the importance of celebrating diversity and treating everyone equally.
Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every January, children, and adults can take Dr. King’s message and apply it to their daily lives.
The message and the work of Dr. King is important for kids on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and year-round.
To help children of all ages better understand Dr. King’s message and his legacy, there are many teaching ideas and Martin Luther King Day activities for children to do to honor this great man.
Whether your child is in Pre-K or grade school, we have some fun activities for children of all ages.
Explaining Who MLK Jr Was & the Civil Rights Movement
Before you can start any activities with your child, you’ll have to explain who Dr. King was, especially to little ones. Here’s a short intro to explain the story of Martin Luther King Jr to younger kids.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a leader and activist in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s who fought against segregation and inequality. He tried to achieve equality through peaceful marches and nonviolent protests.
When you’re explaining civil rights to a child, you can explain that these are the rights that each person enjoys and that are granted and protected by the U.S. government.
All people should be treated equally regardless of their skin color, age, religion, nationality, or disability.
It is against the law to discriminate against someone based on these features. The goal of civil rights is to ensure that every person is treated the same no matter the color of their skin.
How Do You Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Kids?
There are many educational MLK activities and crafts you can try out with kids at school and at home.
Visit the Library
A trip to your local library is a good place to start when it comes to celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There are many good books out there about Dr. King. These include:
- The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Johnny Ray Moore
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, III
- Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
- Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America by Emily Easton
After you read through the books you have chosen, take some time to talk to your children about the different concepts, such as diversity, inclusiveness, and being kind toward others.
Make a Diversity Collage
Making a MLK Jr Day collage is a great way to symbolize diversity and equality for younger kids.
Look through magazines with your children if they’re little and help them find pictures of people of all nationalities. If your child is older, they can do this on your own.
Have your child cut out the pictures and glue them onto a piece of construction paper.
Look for pictures that depict examples of some of the themes that Dr. King promotes, such as people shaking hands or giving a hug, and paste these onto the collage as well.
Attend a Local MLK Day Parade
Many communities hold MLK Day parades either on or around the holiday. This is a great way for kids to see people of all backgrounds gathering to remember the life and work of Dr. King.
Seeing groups of people of all different colors marching together in celebration is exactly the kind of thing kids should learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for the United States.
This can help them understand that no matter what a person looks like, they can all come together for a common cause.
If your community doesn’t hold one, you can look to see if there are any televised parades you can watch with your child.
Martin Luther King Jr. Activities and Projects for Kids
Egg Activity Game
This activity helps kids understand that we're all the same on the inside. Take a brown egg and a white egg and have your child explain all the differences and similarities between the two eggs.
Talk about what you think you will find on the inside. Will the white one be white and the brown, brown? Then, crack the eggs open. Your child will quickly see that they're exactly the same.
Have your child paint his or her hand in several colors and press each color onto a piece of white poster board. Then, talk with your child about the things that need to change in the world. On each handprint, write the thing that your child dreams of changing, such as "hunger" or "racism." Keep the handprint visible so that they can always be reminded of what they want to change and how they work to make it happen.
“I Have a Dream” Sticky Wall
If you have a play area or wall space where you can post an “I Have a Dream” Sticky Wall, this can be a fun little craft for pre-school-age kids. You only need some contact paper, tissue paper, glue, and masking tape to make this craft. You can check out the detailed instructions here.
MLK Jr. Printable Activities
There are many worksheets and printable activities online you can find online for young children to do. Sites like TeacherVison have great Martin Luther King Jr. resources including fun activities, quizzes and worksheets for both teachers and parents!
From coloring pages to word searches, there are many tools available. The best part is that these are free!
Since Dr. Martin Luther King believed in peaceful marches to get his point across, it seems fitting to create a peace craft to honor the civil rights leader. You only need some masking tape, a paper plate, and either some crayons or paint.
Tape a peace sign on the plate and let your child color over it. When you take the tape off, a peace sign is left on the plate among all of the beautiful colors.
This is a hands-on art project that is fun and easy for young children.
MLK Jr. Songs and Rhymes
Kids love music, so why not include some songs and rhymes in your Martin Luther King Jr. activities?
You can find several choices on YouTube that are age appropriate. They’re not only fun but make for a great learning activity.
Freedom Bell Craft
When it comes to kids’ activities for MLK Day, a freedom bell is another fun idea. It only requires a few simple items to make the bell. This activity also helps kids with their fine motor skills.
People Peace Dancer
Make a peace dancer from paper by helping your child draw and cut out little people. Depending on their age, you may have to help with cutting and folding.
The finished product is very cute and appropriate for the holiday.
Martin Luther King Jr. Trivia Educational Games & Activities
“I Have a Dream” Writing Prompt
Many teachers include this writing activity as part of their lesson plans for MLK Day, but if your older child doesn’t do this at school, you can do it at home with them. Simply, start with “I Have a Dream” and have them list all that they are dreaming of.
Be sure to explain the significance of the “I Have a Dream” speech as they list all of their hopes and aspirations.
Take an Online Quiz
Have your older children test their MLK Day knowledge by taking a little MLK quiz online with you. You can have a healthy competition about who knows more.
You may be surprised about some facts you never knew about. Parents can try our Martin Luther King Quiz for Parents for some more in-depth trivia.
Martin Luther King Jr. Trivia Game
On the same thought of an online quiz, is a trivia game older kids can make up. By finding questions online, they can create their own game and test their knowledge. You may even want to have a small prize for the winner!
Volunteer With a Civil Rights Group
Since many children have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, you can encourage them to volunteer with a civil rights group. This is a great way for older children and teens to acknowledge the significance of the day. You can teach your child that they can volunteer not only on MLK Day but year-round.
When it comes to finding activities for kids to do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there are plenty of things for kids of all ages. Whichever ideas you choose, be sure to emphasize the importance of the day’s message of diversity and equality and how children can incorporate it into their daily lives.
For more good ways to teach kids about racism and the fight for equal rights check out, 25 Children's Books for Kids About Race and Racism.