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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Ways to honor his legacy with your kids

MLK Day

As we welcome each new year, we pause on the third Monday in January to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. He believed that no matter what you look like, or where you’re from, everyone should be treated fairly and with respect.  

After centuries of oppression and discrimination against Black people, Dr. King created possibilities that were beyond imagining at that time in history. His ideas, activism, and leadership made him a beacon of hope and a hero to millions of people around the world.  

There’s still work to be done to make sure all people have the freedom to live their dreams in peace, safety, and dignity. In our classrooms, we’ll be taking a closer look at the life and legacy of Dr. King, and how we can keep his dream alive. But first, let’s get to know Dr. King a little better.

Who was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? 

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, Dr. King was an American Baptist minister who experienced racism and discrimination at an early age. It inspired him to fight for equity and justice for African American people in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Learn more about Dr. King with your child. 

Ready to honor Dr. King? Find age-appropriate ways to celebrate, honor, and give back as a family: 

Babies and toddlers (ages 0-2) can celebrate his birthday!

A great way to learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is by reading more about him. Pick out your own book or choose from our reading recommendations. Read together as a family, then have some fun celebrating his birthday. You can draw a picture, sing happy birthday, or even make your favorite birthday treat to enjoy in his honor. 

Reading Recommendations 
• “Good Night Martin Luther King Jr.,” by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper, illustrated by Julissa More 
• “That is My Dream,” by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Daniel Miyares 
• “Dream Big, Little One,” by Vashti Harrison 

Preschoolers (ages 3-5) can show kindness. 

Treating people fairly is central to Dr. King’s message and his teaching. Gather your family to make a list of ways you can advocate for fairness and take action in your home and community. Come up with your top five acts of fairness and try to do one each week. 

For kids, that might mean making their beds each morning or helping clean up after dinner to make housework duties more equal. As a family, perhaps you can build unity in your neighborhood by baking a treat to welcome new community members or volunteer your time for a cause you care about that promotes fairness.  

Reading Recommendations 
• “Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King,” by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney 
• “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier 
• “We March,” by Shane W. Evans 

Elementary schoolers (ages 5-10) can create a chain of hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was known as an incredible speaker. He used powerful words to connect with how people were feeling, and his speeches made listeners excited to create positive change. Explore the power of words and how they make you feel while making a “chain of hope” that you can display in your home for inspiration all year: 
 
1. Cut strips of paper and write down a word that makes you happy and hopeful on each one.  
2. Talk about how you feel when you hear these words, say them, write them, or draw them.  
3. Get creative by using different colored paper, drawing pictures, adding stickers, and more!  
4. Then, link your words together to create your family’s chain of hope and hang it in a special place in your home. 

Reading Recommendations 
• “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla 
• “My Brother Martin,” by Christina King Farris, illustrated by Christ Soentpiet 
• “I Have a Dream,” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Dr. King’s impact is still being felt today, around the world, and here at KinderCare. Watch this video to see the impression Dr. King has made on the lives of some of our teachers, how his work has influenced them, and what dreams they have for the next generation.



Bring the celebration home through these activities and by providing space for children to respectfully talk about our differences and similarities, so that we can all come together to make his dream a reality.