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Every year we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. And every year our kids smile at the prospect of a day off while totally missing the significance of the day.  Let’s be real – celebrating a hero that lived over 40 years ago may not hit home with today’s kids.  Most kids just don’t care about history. They barely care about what happened yesterday.

But it’s our jobs as mothers to make them care about the historical events that have impacted us as a people and as a nation.  Here are some fantastic ideas to make history and the memory of Dr. King come alive for kids of all ages:

Preschoolers: Preschoolers love fun and celebrations.  Ever notice how excited they get about birthday parties?  You can harness that excitement into a teachable moment by helping your preschooler throw a birthday party for their friend Martin. You can help them create an oversized birthday card for Dr. King.  Assist your child in finding pictures on the internet from significant moments in the life of Dr. King and decorate the card with these pictures.  As a part of the birthday celebration, read your child an age-appropriate story about Dr. King’s life.  Check out “Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.” by J. Brian Pinkney. And of course no party is complete without a birthday cake or cupcakes.  Have your child make a wish for peace on behalf of Dr. King.

Elementary: This age group lives for hands-on activities, so get out your glue, scissors and glitter!  Spend a little time talking to your elementary-aged child about Dr. King’s dream.  You can pull up the “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube for your older elementary child and have him listen to it.  Then give him the art supplies and ask him to illustrate his personal dreams for the future on paper.  Encourage your child to show his dream in vivid colors using markers, crayons and colorful glitter.  Be sure to hang the picture up in a prominent place in the house for the family to see.

Junior High: Your cool junior high student is moved by music.  Perfect!  Nothing makes history come alive like music.  Take some time to explore hip hop songs that reference Dr. King with your preteen.  Watch the music videos with her on YouTube for “Dream” by Common featuring and Public Enemy’s “By The Time I Get to Arizona.”  After you get finished jammin’, have a chat about what the videos meant.

High School: The Martin Luther King holiday is a great time to spend time with your high schooler while serving the community as Dr. King did.  Talk to your teen about how Dr. King served our country, and then ask your teen to identify her favorite cause.  Make arrangements to spend the holiday volunteering for this cause with your teen.  Visit to find great volunteer opportunities in your community.

The old saying goes that if we don’t study history we’re doomed to repeat it.  Let’s make Dr. King’s dream come alive in a vibrant way for the next generation.

How will you encourage your kids to remember Martin?

Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, and blogger focusing on inspiring and empowering women.  Read more of her writings here on her personal blog.

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