Teaching Preschoolers About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man. After experiencing racism as a young boy, he devoted his entire life to seeking equality for others. Dr. King was filled with hope for the future, particularly for children. With MLK Day coming in a couple of weeks, it’s a great time to introduce your preschooler to the man who cared about the world they are now growing up in.
 
The principles that Dr. King stood and fought for can be quite complex, especially for preschool aged children. Introduce them to simple concepts such as the beauty of diversity, being inclusive (or even, simply, nice) to others, and non-violence. Also, remember that Dr. King was actually a real man. We often romanticize him, but focusing on how he was hurt when he was a boy and relating it to present day experiences will help preschoolers to comprehend a lot more about Dr. King.

Books To Read:

by Johnny Ray Moore, illustrated by Amy Wummer

This board book is a great introduction to Dr. King for young children. Using simple language, it gives an account of Dr. King’s life. While the watercolor photos are beautiful, I found this book to be challenging to use with a group of preschoolers because the pictures don’t quite stand out. It worked wonderfully reading with a child one on one, though.

by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla

The best part about this book is that preschoolers get a glimpse into the boy who eventually became Dr. King. They will see that he had been left out, and had his feelings hurt, but that he channeled that pain into making sure no other children had to experience it. Be prepared for deep conversations with this book.

by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Although this book may seem to mature for preschoolers, it is definitely one that they can grow up with. The book uses actual words from Dr. King to tell the story of his life. If you skip the prose, and stick to the quotes from Dr. King, you can use the gorgeous photos and MLK’s words to start some amazing conversations with your little one.
Here’s a list of a few more books for little kids about Dr. King:

Activities to Do:

  • Look through magazines together and find pictures of children of all nationalities. Help your preschooler cut the pictures out, and create a multicultural collage. Alternately, you could create a collage that illustrates some of the principles that Dr. King believed in, such as love and peace.
  • Help preschoolers relate to Dr. King as a boy by completing this simple Dr. King and Me booklet. Just print it out and fold it in fours. Have your young learner draw pictures that relate to each fact about Dr. King. If you’re having trouble downloading the booklet from this site, use this link to get a printable PDF: http://bit.ly/VIEi2w
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Booklet for Preschoolers
  • Create a simple chart that has the names of each of your family members on the top. Label the sides with Hair Color, Eye Color, Favorite Food, and other categories. Fill in the chart with information from the entire family. Compare the differences and similarities, and discuss how the differences don’t make you love each other any less…it just makes you that much cooler of a family!
  • Teach your preschooler the lyrics to the song, “We Shall Overcome”. Talk about the word “overcome”. Discuss how Dr. King was working to help others overcome being mistreated. Change the lyrics with your preschooler to reflect something that is important to them (i.e. “I’ll be a good friend, I’ll be a good friend, I’ll be a good friend each day…”)
  • Complete this MLK Find-A-Word with your older preschoolers. Although I’m typically NOT a worksheet person, this word search can be a good introduction to new vocabulary, and a conversation starter. If you are having trouble downloading the sheet from this site, check out this link to get a printable PDF version: http://bit.ly/VhqfzQ
  • Make this super adorable Freedom Bell Craft. You can certainly use any cup if you don’t want to use styrofoam. You could also make the bell out of an egg carton.
kindergarten
Freedom Bell source: http://www.twigglemagazine.com/January-activities/Martin-Luther-King-craft.html
For most children, learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is their first history lesson. It’s important to spark the interest of preschoolers and plant the seeds of knowledge so that as they get older, true understanding can grow. Whether you make MLK Day a day of service, a day of learning, or a day of love, take a moment to thank Dr. King for the work that he did back then so that our children could thrive now.*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
  • kaicongroup

    This is wonderful and thanks for the books. This will be very helpful for my soon to be 3 year old. BTW, love the new site layout.

    • BrandiJeter

      I’m so glad this is helpful! Let me know how your little one likes the books! (Thank you for the compliment on the site!)