Martin Luther King Jr. Day for Children

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day for Children

Martin Luther King Jr. Day takes place on the third Monday of January annually and has been a holiday observed as a federal holiday in all 50 states since 2000. While many enjoy an extra day off from schools and workplaces, parents may consider taking the opportunity to talk with children about the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and why we celebrate to honor his legacy.

MLK Jr. Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day for Children, MLK Day for Kids, MLK Jr. Activities

Who was Martin Luther King Jr.?

The concept of Civil Rights and the intricacies of the movement that Dr. King inspired might be too big for preschool and Kindergarten-aged children. However, even at a young age, children understand the core message of fairness and kindness. Simply put for young children, Dr. King was a man who was treated differently because of the color of his skin so he stood up for himself and those like him who were also being treated unfairly. Others who listened to Dr. King speak agreed with what he was saying and joined his team to help everyone who was being treated unfairly. Some people called him a hero. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is when we remember him and honor the message of kindness and fairness that he spread.

Martin Luther King Jr. Facts

  • If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be 93 years old.
  • There are more than 900 streets across the United States in 40 different states named for MLK Jr. 
  • There is a memorial statue of Dr. King located in Washington D.C. Worldwide, other countries have honored Dr. King with memorials including Hungary, South Africa, Israel, Ghana, India, London, and Sweden.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. graduated high school early and began college at the age of 15 years old. 
  • MLK Jr. is the youngest person at age 35 years old to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won for nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. graduated high school early and began college at the age of 15 years old. 
  • MLK Jr. is the youngest person at age 35 years old to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won for nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice.

Resources for MLK Jr. Day

Taking the time to talk about Dr. King’s legacy on this day is an important way to honor his work. Here are a few kid-friendly resources to share with your children: 

Fun Activities to Honor MLK Jr.

Children always love to do arts and crafts. Here are some great printables and ideas to get crafty while remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Peace Paper Plate – Use painter’s tape or masking tape and make a peace sign on a paper plate. Have kids paint all over. When dry remove the tape!
  • “I Have a Dream” Printable Journal Sheet – This is a fun way to start a conversation and get your child thinking. It always warms my heart to hear of the kind things they think of. Designed and created by The Whimsically Wonderful Blog. You can download it here.
  • “I Have a Dream” Printable Color Sheet – This is a free color sheet as a part of the One Love Activity Collection created by Olive & Eve Co. Download it here.
  • “I Have a Dream Journal” Printable – This entire journal is free and can be printed at home. Have fun filling it out as a family and putting it together with fun ribbon and yarn. Created by The Show Gals. You can download it here.

Honor MLK Jr. with Children

The history of Martin Luther King Jr. is extensive and his contributions to modern-day society live on. Here are three simple ways you can encourage your children to honor Dr. King’s legacy:

  • Do some good and give back to your community. Volunteer locally and encourage children that serving others can be a year-round opportunity.
  • Talk with children about current events that are continuations of Dr. King’s work, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Help them understand their role in spreading and supporting Dr. King’s message of equality today and into the future.
  • Create and share! Help kids use the inspiration from Dr. King to make and share artwork, stories, poems, or music. Whatever your child’s talent, encourage them to use it to spread messages supporting inclusivity, equality, and kindness. 

MLK Jr. Day Events in Des Moines, Iowa

Written by Stephanie Lovelace

Des Moines area schools are recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 15, with a day off. This is the perfect time to make sure your kids know who MLK Jr. is and the contributions he made to their country. 

Here are some opportunities in the Des Moines area to help you get started: 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Recognition

What: A family-friendly event that promises to be filled with thought-provoking discussions, educational exhibits, and community awards focused on standing united in creating a world where justice is upheld. The event is organized in collaboration with the City of Des Moines and West Des Moines. Register for this all-ages event here.

Time: 3 to 5 p.m.

Where: MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex at 6500 Grand Ave., West Des Moines 

Celebrate MLK Jr. Day at Hope + Elim

What: Join Hope + Elim as they celebrate and live out Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the Beloved Community, from the very stage Dr. King spoke from 65 years ago! The service will include powerful worship music, an inspiring message from special guest Brittany K. Barnett, attorney, author, entrepreneur, and criminal justice advocate, and appearances by Will Ette, Bridges to Harmony, and more! Learn more here.

Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Where: 2500 University Ave., Des Moines, IA 50311

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

What: Come listen to remarks from the Des Moines Public School District Superintendent, Ian Roberts. Roberts will share information from his 20 years of experience in education and take part in a Q and A session. 

Bring the whole family and enjoy an art project and refreshments. 

Time: 4 to 5 p.m.

Where: Forest Avenue Library Children’s Area at 1326 Forest Ave., Des Moines

Jordan House Museum Book Giveaway

What: Bring the whole family and check out The Historic Jordan House Museum and Underground Railroad exhibit. Free self-guided tours will be available and free books while they last!

Time: Sunday, January 14 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: Jordan House Museum, 2001 Fuller Rd., West Des Moines

Ames/Story County Community Celebration

What: Start the night with MLK Jr. birthday cookies at a social from 6 to 6:30 p.m. then stay to hear from George W. Trice who created the Trice Legacy Foundation in honor of Iowa State University’s first black football player Jack Trice. 

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: Ames City Auditorium, 520 Sixth St., Ames 

Meals from the Heartland Service Project

What: MLK Jr. Day is also recognized as a day of service. Sign up today to serve by packaging meals for local residents with Meals from the Heartland. The goal is to package 140,000 meals for hungry children and families in Iowa.  Schedule a 1.5-hour shift here

Time: Schedule a morning or afternoon shift from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Meals from the Heartland, 357 Lincoln St., West Des Moines

Michelle Jarnagin

Michelle Jarnagin

My name is Michelle Jarnagin and I live with my husband Dave and our son Devic in Des Moines. We have two Chihuahuas - Loki and Ollie. I work full time as a social worker and Dave is the stay-at-home parent in our household. Devic is currently in Kindergarten and will be entering 1st Grade this fall. In our free time, our family enjoys walking with the dogs, exploring parks and playgrounds, and visiting bowling/arcade centers. This summer you're likely to find us at the baseball fields for Devic's second season or enjoying one of the many festivals/activities Des Moines has to offer.

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