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Martin Luther King Day Lesson, Crafts, and Activities

Show a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. to children. Ask:

  • Does anyone know who this person is? 
  • What do you know about him? 

Allow children to share what they know and write their responses on chart paper. Explain that on the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is celebrated. Ask:

  • Why do you think his birthday is celebrated? 

Allow children time to respond.

Read the book Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. (Scholastic Bookshelf) or another book about Martin Luther King Jr. Talk about the book and write new information that children have learned on the chart paper.

Explain to children that Martin Luther King Jr. is important because he helped our country realize that it needed to change some very unfair laws. A law is like a rule. Sometimes rules are fair and sometimes rules are not fair. Ask:

  • What are some of the rules that we have in our class?
  • Are the rules the same for everyone in the class?
  • Are they fair to everyone? 

Give children time to talk about the rules. Explain to children that they will participate in an activity that shows what it is like when a rule is unfair to some people.

Is It Fair? 

Preschool Activities: 

Empty a bucket full of Legos in the middle of your circle (make sure there are only a handful red Legos). Divide the children into two groups. The members in the first group get blue dots on their hands, and the members in the second group receive red dots on their hands. 

Explain that children will be able to play with the Legos for a while until you ring the bell. Say: All children with a blue dot can play with any Lego they would like, but all children with a red dot can only play with Legos that are red.

Let children play for a minute or two and then ring the bell. Switch the rule for the groups. After the second ring, gather children and talk about how it made them feel when they couldn't play with all the toys. This rule was unfair.

Review the book again and ask: Do you remember some of the unfair rules or laws that African-American people had to follow? Allow children time to respond. Refer to the book for examples.

  • Only white people could sit in the front of the bus.
  • African-Americans could only eat at certain restaurants and drink from certain drinking fountains.
  • African-American and white children could not attend the same school.
  • Sometimes African-American and white children were not even allowed to play with one another.

Ask:

  • How do you think African-Americans felt about these laws?
  • How would you have felt?
  • How would you feel if I said that you could not play with __________ because he or she has blonde hair, is tall, or comes from a different country than you? 

Allow children time to respond. Explain that Martin Luther King Jr. believed that people should not fight with each other. He believed that people should work together peacefully to solve problems and differences. He believed that the unfair laws should be changed but not by fighting. He tried to help others change these laws peacefully. Ask:

  • What do think it means to solve problems peacefully?

Reinforce the idea that words can be used instead of hitting or pushing to express anger or frustration. Encourage children to think of other ways that they can settle their problems peacefully.

Multicultural Rainbow 

Preschool Activities: 

Cut a large arc shape from a piece of white poster board. Have children dip their hands into black, brown, tan, yellow, and red paint and place their handprints all over the arc. Let dry. Then, have children cut out pictures of people from magazines (young and old, black and white, happy and sad, from different cultures, etc.) and glue them onto the handprints.

Make an Equality Hands Kids Craft Collage like this one from art-paper-scissors.blogspot.com

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a speech called "I Have a Dream." Here are some of the words that he spoke:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
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.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Discuss with children what they think Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to say with these words. What was he hoping for? Then, brainstorm things children would like to see happen in the world.

I Have a Dream Craftivity from thankgoditsfirstgrade.blogspot.com

Free Martin Luther King Coloring Page

Writing Activity: 

Have children cut the shape of a large cloud out of white construction paper and glue it onto a sheet of blue paper. Then, have children write on the cloud, "I have a dream that __________." Glue cotton balls around the cloud. Display on a bulletin board or on mobiles with some stars.

Free I have a dream...Printable:

Other I Have a Dream bulletin board ideas:

 

Music and Movement 
Play some music while children move or dance around the room. When the music stops, tell children to find one person to hug or say something nice to. Play the music again and have each pair move or dance together. When the music stops, have each pair find another pair to hug or say something nice to. Play the music again and have these four find another foursome to hug or say something nice to. Continue until the whole group joins together for one BIG hug.

Freedom Bell 

Show students a bell and ring it. Get reactions from the students about the sound that a bell makes. Then tell students that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted freedom to ring throughout America.

Make our Freedom Bell Craft

Freedom, Freedom, Let it Ring
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)
Author Unknown

Freedom, freedom, let it ring,
"Let it ring," said Dr King.
Let us live in harmony,
Peace and love for you and me.
Freedom, freedom, let it ring,
"Let it ring," said Dr King.

Other Martin Luther King Jr. activties and printables available on our KidsSoup Resource Library: 

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M.L.King Jr. "I have a Dream" Writing M.L.King Jr.: Different on the
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Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Bell Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Prompt
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Martin Luther King Jr. friends activity and printables
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Martin Luther King Jr.: Chain of Friends Martin Luther King Jr.: Friends Coloring
Martin Luther King Jr. diversity preschool game and activity
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Martin Luther King Jr. Chain of Friends game and activity
Preschool Activities: 
Martin Luther King Jr.: Diversity M.L.King Jr.: Chain of Friends Folder Game

 

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