As a parent, I admit I haven’t a clue how to help my child understand and really celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Typically, it is easier to just let this January holiday slip by and skim over the idea of why this day exists. But somehow, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure they have an understanding of who this man was and why there is a national holiday honoring his memory.
Here are a few ways I have researched and come up with to help my children learn about Dr. King’s message to us. And in return, I have a better understanding of the importance of this day and how to incorporate it into our lives.
Finding a book that your children will understand can be difficult. One book that has great pictures and a good story that is probably appropriate for kindergarten to fifth grade is “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport. This book is easy to understand, and really, books are one of the best ways to incorporate the full story into your child’s mind. This book tells a story that will help children and parents understand the significance of remembering Martin Luther King Jr. There are probably other fabulous books out there, and if you find one that resonates with you, share it with others!
Finding a simple game to help your child understand “differences and similarities” with others could make a huge difference in how your child responds to the world around him. One of the simplest games to play is Simon Says. Play the game by using physical characteristics. For example, say, “Simon says if you have brown hair take two steps forward.” Use different physical characteristics for a while, then say, “Simon says everyone created by God take three steps forward.” This simple activity shows that although we have physical characteristics that are different, we are all loved and made by the same maker.
Have your children make their own Peace Prize medal. You can make it as simple as using construction paper and crayons. Make the medals with some simple yarn to be able to be worn like a necklace. Explain to your child that these medals will be given out when they do something kind and show gentleness and respect to others. This will hopefully open up some good discussion about positive behavior and showing love towards others.
I Have a Dream, Too
Although this might be better to do with older children, it may work with preschoolers, too. You could begin by reading some excerpts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to your child or find the actual speech and watch it with your child on YouTube. Tell your child you want him to write about his dreams and make sure you guide him to write about what he hopes for others and the world we live in. Help him write his own speech. This will be an awesome keepsake for your child in the future.
Just Talk Openly
Sometimes, activities don’t happen. So the most important thing you can do with and for your child is to talk with him, even if it’s 10 minutes of sitting down one on one with your child and explaining why there is a Martin Luther King Day. Answer questions. It’s okay to be very honest with your children about prejudices and hate in the world. It’s important that they hear these things from you as their parent. Explain this to them and talk about how they can love others no matter what they look like or who they are.
Taking time to understand Martin Luther King Day as a parent and teaching it to your child is a very wise thing to do. You are educating yourself, and giving your child the gift of knowledge and curiosity to understand and the heart to love others is priceless. Remember Martin Luther King and pass his message and love onto your children.