Explaining MLK Day to Your Kids


martin luther king dayMost schools are closed on Monday, and most businesses have the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact he had on bringing our country around to the idea that all people are created equal. If your child is like mine, her pre-school has been discussing the important contributions of Dr. King this week, and she's probably coming home with lots of interesting thoughts and questions.

While we celebrate the birth of the man every third Monday in January, the fact is he worked for a downtrodden minority in a very dark time in our nation's history. He died in a violent, horrific manner and keeping the conversation on the positive can be challenging with a curious toddler.

Here are the actual questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. that have popped up in my house, and how we kept the focus on the positive, without sugarcoating (too much) reality.

Who is Martin Luther King?

He was a good man who fought hard to gain rights for black people in America, when they were being treated badly. He believed that all people should be treated equally, regardless of skin color. Like we believe.

What does "equal" mean?

It means the same. No one gets treated better than other person because of what they look like.

Why did he want everyone to be the same?

Say you walked into a store and you wanted to buy a toy. Your friend walked into the store and wanted to buy a toy also. But the person behind the counter said you couldn't buy the toy, but your friend could, because you're (fill in the blank -- a girl, Jewish, something they identify with but do not have a choice about). Is that fair?

Are we all the same?

We all look different, and we all have different beliefs, but we all should be treated the same. We're all people.

Later my daughter asked me if Martin Luther King was still alive. I told her he wasn't, but didn't explain the assassination. Especially in light of this week's shootings, I did not think 4 was an acceptable age to explain that so much hate can make a bad person take another person's life.

Another way to focus on the positive of King's accomplishments is to participate in the day of service on Monday, and find a volunteer opportunity where your child can join along.

Remember age appropriate answers are required. You wouldn't say the same thing to an 8-year-old as you do your 4-year-old. Keeping it simple is important at this stage.

How will you explain the fight of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in your house?


Image via BlatantNews.com/Flickr

learning, nursery school


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bills... billsfan1104

I will remind my kids that MLK fought for equality for every American. That is was inspiring. Too bad people are just happy its a day off for them.

sodapple sodapple

they explain it today at school but i will probably use your ideas =-D

nonmember avatar Katie

Since you're telling people how to talk to 4-year-olds, perhaps "worked" is a wiser thing to say than "fought hard" ... since we teach our kids not to fight, after all.

ethan... ethans_momma06

We will be using a different explanation but it will be age appropriate. No sugar coaing for us either though.

tazdvl tazdvl

I will keep it simpe so they understand.

Just2... Just2busymom

My 7yr old came home from school explaining to ME who he was and what he did.  Very impressed.  As for my 3yr old, he's a little too young to even understand.


Good ideas. My son is older so he really understands it. I hope parents do take the time to explain it even to the smallest kids though.

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

My son is still too little.  He has grown up in an environment where he wouldn't understand WHY anyone would be judged by the color of their skin.  We'll keep raising him this way, the explain the history when he's old enough to understand it.

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