3 Ways to Talk with Your Kids about Martin Luther King Jr
There are historical figures that you want children to learn about and appreciate not only because they represent a milestone in our nation’s past, but also because their existence was larger than life.
Yes, we can look at Martin Luther King, Jr solely as the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which changed racial discrimination laws in America 50 years ago, and that would be enough reason for admiration. But what King accomplished in national history is far exceeded by the complexity of his timeless life teachings.
In fact, the legendary “dream” that King had represents the hope for humankind to fight injustice and discrimination on all levels. His most precious gift to us was the inspiration to make our individual voices heard.
His powerful story and valuable lessons evident in his actions, comments, and speech make him a good example for parents to reach their children.
Here are three ways parents can share these take aways with children at any age:
1. Serious Play From infancy to late childhood, kids learn everything about the world through play. To them, toys and games are real-life experiences, and you as a parent should never underestimate the role of playing in their lives. What’s more, this is an excellent way to introduce your child to any new characters, real or historical, that you think are important in his or her development.
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day is the perfect occasion to challenge your child with a new game that places this historical figure in the center. From the MLK Jr. Felt StoryBoard named “Growing Up Blackxican,” suitable for kindergarten age children, to the “I Have a Dream” Speech Craft from Crayola, for kids in third grade and higher, you can play many meaningful and creative games.
2. Useful Books Reading is another activity that helps your child develop language and concentration skills while learning about the world. Kids nowadays are not as accustomed to hardcover printed books; this is why buying one for your child might develop their curiosity in ways you have never thought before.
Two great suggestions are: Martin’s Big Words, a picture book biography of King written by Doreen Rappaport or King’s Courage, an adventure book that captures King's story written by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon.
3. Heart to Heart Discussion You can make your own attempt to approach this historical subject in a family discussion. Talking with your elementary-age kids about what’s fair and unfair with basic everyday examples will help them understand more about life, giving them the opportunity to find their own place within a community. With middle-school kids, subjects like service to others and civil responsibility can be touched upon, while high school students can start to face more complex issues such as war, discrimination, and poverty, and how to create change.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was one of the world's most influential leaders, so MLK Day is a great opportunity to teach your kids why he was such a historic figure and how his messages of hope and compassion can be translated to situations in our world today.