Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

As a parent it is sometimes difficult to plan activities for younger children around some of the historic holidays. It can also be challenging when there are cultural elements to the holiday that you, as a parent, may not be familiar with.

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day really celebrates American civil rights, this is a wonderful day to talk to your children, at an age appropriate level, about the important contribution that this historic figure made to the freedoms and opportunities that are provided to people that live in the United States today.

Making Quotes Come to Life

A great thing to do is to choose a few quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and talk to your children about how these quotes have changed the way that people look at themselves and each other. While you certainly can talk about the inequality that African Americans faced prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950 and 1960s, you can also talk specifically about how these issues impact a child today, regardless of race, ethnicity and color of skin.

For example, from the starting point of the famous by Martin Luther King Jr., “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” you can begin to talk about:

  • Equality
  • Fairness
  • Character
  • Dreams

Drawing pictures of these concepts and how they apply to the child’s own life today is a wonderful way to personalize this message.


Most communities will have a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and this can be a highly interactive way for the children to get a big picture view of the importance of not just Dr. King but also of the American Civil Rights movement.

Many communities tie in the celebration with the upcoming Black History Month in February. Churches and organizations within different communities may also offer special activities at this same time focusing on Dr. King and his contributions.

Books for Children

There are several different books that are written for younger children that talk about Martin Luther King Jr. in an age appropriate way. These books include:

  • A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler
  • My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.  by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr  by Doreen Rappaport
  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr? by Bonnie Bader

Older children and parents can also read some of the adult books and biographies on the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and then talk about the concepts and ideas.