How to Celebrate MLK Day with Your Toddler (Fun and Educational Activities)

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with your toddler creates a valuable opportunity to start conversations about equality, kindness, and the impact of individual actions. Dr. King’s legacy offers countless teachable moments that can be tailored to a young child’s understanding.

Through activities that honor his work and message, you can introduce your child to important historical concepts in an engaging and age-appropriate way.

Taking the time to engage in special crafts or projects can not only be a fun activity to do together but can also serve as a visual representation of Dr. King’s principles.

Moreover, simple acts of kindness and community involvement can demonstrate these values, providing practical examples of compassion and empathy for your child to emulate.

Teach your toddler about the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Exploring the monumental influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offers valuable lessons in freedom, equality, and justice—ideals that are vital for all, including toddlers, to understand.

A young dad is showing his toddler daughter a book about MLK Jr.

Let’s break down three critical aspects of his legacy.

1. The Civil Rights Movement

Under Dr. King’s leadership, the Civil Rights Movement became a powerful force for change in the United States.

He guided efforts to dismantle systemic racism and promote equality for African Americans.

Relaying to your toddler the essence of the movement, you could explain how Dr. King taught people to stand up bravely against unfair rules and to do so peacefully, with compassion and hope.

2. The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is one of the most iconic addresses in history.

A graphic of MLK Jr. with his iconic message "I have a dream"

Delivered in 1963 at the March on Washington, it encapsulated Dr. King’s profound desire for a future where children would not be judged by their skin color.

It’s a powerful message for your little one about daring to dream of a better and more just world.

3. Values of equality and justice

Equality and justice were the cornerstones of Dr. King’s message.

Teach your child that everyone should be treated fairly and kindly, no matter what they look like—much like how Dr. King believed people should live.

These values form the foundation of his legacy, providing a roadmap for leading a life filled with purpose and kindness, and they’re as important today as they were during his life.

Deepening your discussion about racism with your toddler

As you celebrate MLK Day with your toddler, it’s a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for understanding complex topics like racism and equality in a way that’s accessible to them.

A kindergarten class is sitting on the group having a group discussion about MLK Jr. day and racism
Happy kids at elementary school

Here are some tips to deepen your discussion:

  1. Simplifying racism: Start by explaining that sometimes people are mistreated based on how they look, which is not right or fair. Compare it to a situation they understand, like being excluded from play because of the color of their toy or clothes.
  2. Historical context for toddlers: While detailed history might be too complex, you can say that a long time ago, people were treated differently based on their skin color, and Dr. King worked hard to change that. He believed everyone should be treated kindly and fairly.
  3. Teaching empathy: Use everyday examples to teach empathy. For instance, if they see someone being left out, encourage them to invite that person to play. Explain that Dr. King wanted everyone to be included and treated nicely.
  4. Celebrate diversity: Highlight the beauty of different cultures and skin colors. Encourage curiosity and appreciation for diversity, explaining that the world is like a rainbow, beautiful because of its various colors.
  5. Promoting kindness: Dr. King’s legacy is also about kindness. Teach them to be kind to everyone, regardless of how they look, which is a powerful way to honor his memory.

By integrating these discussions into your MLK Day activities, you’re celebrating a historical figure and instilling values that form the basis of a compassionate and understanding individual.

Educational MLK activities for toddlers

Engaging your toddler in MLK Day educational activities can be fun and informative. These activities will introduce them to the values of diversity and inclusion while celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Reading books on MLK and diversity

Start by selecting age-appropriate books that highlight the concepts of diversity and inclusion and the life of Martin Luther King Jr. For young children, picture books that celebrate the range of human colors and cultures can be very engaging.

I am Martin Luther King Jr. book cover
  • I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Brad Meltzer is an excellent choice for preschoolers; it delivers complex history in a simple, readable way for young minds.

Reading stories together provides a unique opportunity for you to discuss the book’s themes and introduce your toddler to the principles of equality that Dr. King stood for.

Timeline of MLK’s Life

Creating a basic timeline of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life can be a tactile way for toddlers to learn about history and the impact of his work.

  • Craft a simple timeline using drawing paper or a vertical scroll of craft paper.
  • Mark significant events with stickers or drawings, such as King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

This visual aid helps young children understand the sequence of events and the importance of MLK’s contribution to the civil rights movement and beyond.

It’s also a fun craft activity that aids in the development of fine motor skills.

Crafts and projects to honor Dr. King

In celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with your little ones, crafting is a wonderful way to teach them about Dr. King’s message of peace and unity.

Simple, hands-on activities can help make the concepts more relatable and spark important conversations about diversity and kindness.

Creating an ‘I Have a Dream’ craft

Craft a powerful ‘I Have a Dream’ cloud with your toddler to discuss Dr. King’s vision for equality.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Gather materials: You will need construction paper, cotton balls, glue, and markers.
  2. Create the cloud: Shape a cloud out of cotton balls on blue or white paper, symbolizing Dr. King’s dream.
  3. Express your child’s dreams: Have your child articulate their dreams of kindness or a better world and write them around the cloud.

This craft taps into your child’s creativity, giving them a space to express their hopes just as Dr. King did.

Celebrating with MLK Day-themed art

Embrace art projects that celebrate the themes of MLK Day:

  • Handprint peace doves: Paint your child’s hand white, press it onto paper, and add details to transform it into a peace dove.
  • Colorful MLK Day-themed paintings: With red, white, and blue paint, let your child create abstract freedom art on a canvas or cardstock.

Through these art projects, you celebrate the diversity and the unifying message that Dr. King shared, fostering a sense of kindness and unity in children from an early age.

Community involvement and acts of kindness

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day presents a beautiful opportunity to teach your toddler about compassion and kindness. Engaging in community-focused activities allows you and your family to honor MLK’s legacy through meaningful action.

Volunteer as a Family

Community service can be an enriching experience for your whole family. Even toddlers can participate in age-appropriate volunteer opportunities.

A large group of happy volunteers are taking a picture together

Start with simple activities like:

  • Neighborhood clean-up: Take a walk through your community and pick up litter together. It’s a hands-on way to teach your child about the importance of a clean environment.
  • Visiting local senior centers: Bring joy to a senior center by creating homemade cards or crafts. Your toddler can help spread cheer and kindness.

Support black-owned businesses

Giving back can also mean supporting businesses that strengthen community ties. Make it a habit to:

  • Discover and shop: Find a local black-owned business like a bookstore or a café and visit it with your child. Explain how you’re helping the community thrive by supporting these entrepreneurs.
  • Read together: Choose children’s books that feature diverse characters and stories, as well as those that celebrate Black history and culture.

Cultivating compassion and empathy

When celebrating MLK Day with your toddler, it’s essential to nurture their sense of empathy and compassion.

These qualities lie at the heart of Dr. King’s message and are crucial for building a foundation of understanding and kindness from a young age.

Discussing race and racism in age-appropriate ways

Starting conversations about race and racism with children can be simple.

Use clear language that they can understand. Explain that people have different skin colors, but everyone deserves to be treated fairly, which is what Dr. King fought for.

Encourage your toddler to ask questions and be honest in your responses, using examples from their own world to illustrate points about equality and respect.

Reading books together that feature diverse characters is a good way to introduce these topics.

Learning about Dr. King’s values of love and understanding

Dr. King’s legacy can be shared with toddlers through stories of his life that focus on his values of love, understanding, and compassion.

For instance, talk about how Dr. King wanted people to solve problems with words, not fists.

Use activities that embody these values, such as:

  • Drawing pictures of people helping each other.
  • Role-playing games where your child can practice showing kindness.

By incorporating these practices into MLK Day, you’re teaching your toddler valuable lessons on empathy and compassion while honoring the lasting impact of Dr. King’s work on civil rights and anti-racist principles.


What are some child-friendly activities to honor MLK Day?

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by involving your toddler in activities such as reading children’s books about Dr. King or engaging in interactive games that teach about fairness and equality.

How can I teach my toddler about the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.?

A simple yet powerful way to introduce your toddler to Dr. King is through age-appropriate stories and discussions on the themes of diversity and standing up for what’s right.

What crafts can we do together to celebrate MLK Day?

Try making handprint crafts or a dove of peace, which symbolize the messages of unity and non-violence Dr. King championed.

Are there any simple books or stories to introduce MLK to young children?

Many books for young children present Dr. King’s life and work in a way that’s easy for toddlers to understand and become inspired by.

What are age-appropriate ways to discuss MLK’s message of equality and nonviolence?

Start with basic concepts that your toddler already understands, like sharing and being kind to others, to lay the foundation for deeper conversations about equality and nonviolence as they grow.

Can you suggest any MLK Day events suitable for toddlers?

Keep an eye out for local community events, such as story hours or musical performances, that are geared towards young children and celebrate MLK Day in an engaging, appropriate manner.


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