What to Do With Your Kids on MLK Day in Westchester
Activities and events to entertain, educate, and help honor the legacy of Dr. King.
BY VARIOUS - NATIONAL ARCHIVES, CC BY-SA 4.0
Whether you’re looking for something to do with the family that still honors the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or just something to keep the kids busy on their day off from school, we’ve got you covered with what to do this MLK Day.
In White Plains, Barnes & Noble City Center will be hosting the MLK Freedom Library Book Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities will include the usual face painting, arts & crafts, story time, and musical performances, but will also include African drumming by the Ptah Djembe Drummers, plus visits and readings from authors D.H. Blake and Alexis Clark. A percentage of all book fair sales go to directly benefit the Freedom Library.
If you’re looking for something to get the kids out of the house for some exercise, A-Game Sports in New Rochelle is hosting special one-day sports camps for kids aged 3 to 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and for ages 6 to 12, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., working on athletics, sportmanship, and the fundamentals of each game. There's also a basketball-only camp for ages 6 to 13. Registration ranges from $75 to $100.
Likewise, The New York Rangers: Try Hockey for Free event at The Harvey School's Evarts Ice Rink is open to kids ages 5 through 9 and includes skate rental, instruction from NYR alumni, meet-and-greet after, and a free Rangers hockey stick for your child to take home. The event is free but registration is required.
It’s a little bit farther away, but for a day trip it’s hard to beat Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT. In addition to the usual hands-on learning experiences, the museum will honor Doctor King with a viewing of King’s famed I Have a Dream speech in the Multimedia Gallery.
Guests are also welcome to add their hopes and dreams to the museum's massive 2020 community dream banner. Museum admission is $16 for kids and adults, $12 for seniors, and free for members, infants under 1, and active duty military and their households.
It’s also worth noting that MLK Day is one of the free entrance holidays at all National Parks. While we might be a ways away from the likes of Yosemite, “national parks” includes Saratoga National Historical Park as well as the Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Van Buren, and — yes — Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Sites in Hyde Park.
If you're not feeling the weather, you can also always hold story time right in your own home.
This MLK Day, consider introducing your little ones to Doctor King with a copy of I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Metzer. The bestselling novelist and comic writer teamed up with illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos for a series of biographical picture books ideal for a first meeting with historical figures such as King. Cute and accessible, the pages are also filled with detailed information.
Older kids may also enjoy Who Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? from the classic middle-grades biography and history series, or the graphic novel trilogy March by the late MLK contemporary and former U.S. representative John Lewis.
All things considered, it’s a lot easier to get multiple children to settle down on the couch for a movie than it is for joint reading time. While many of our MLK Day movie recommendations would be a bit mature for the whole family, we highly recommend 1999’s direct-to-video time travel classic Our Friend, Martin:
The story follows two sixth-graders with very little respect or understanding for the civil rights movement who end up traveling through time to meet Martin Luther King, Jr. at various periods in the leader’s life. The all-star cast features appearances by Dexter and Yolanda King (portraying their father and aunt, respectively), as well as LeVar Burton, Jaleel White, Ed Asner, Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Ashley Judd, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, and Oprah Winfrey.
At just over an hour, it’s an easy and excellent introduction into some of the more important events and goals of King’s life without feeling as emotionally heavy as films like Selma, and it's readily available to stream online.
For the older crowd, the Jacob Burns Film Center will be screening Two Shorts by Madeline Anderson, widely credited as the first black women to direct and produce a televised documentary. After the screening, which includes footage of a speech by Coretta Scott King, Anderson will Skype in for a Q&A with the audience. Tickets are $15, or $10 for JBFC members. If you'd still rather stay in, King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis is available to stream on Kanopy for free with any active Westchester library card.
African American Men of Westchester will also be holding its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Youth Awards Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Tarrytown. The awards ceremony honors King's messages and legacy of hope and unity by recognizing Westchester students who represent these ideals through acts of service and leadership within their communities, all alongside music, good food, and uplifting messages. Tickets start at $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
The Nepperhan Community Center of Yonkers will host its 34th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration at 6 p.m. at Castle Royale. This year's master of ceremonies will be television host and pop-culture expert Jawn Murray and tickets start at $60.
If you're looking to give back to the community yourself, Volunteer New York! has once again organized an MLK Day of Service with various good will activities all over Westchester (and even Rockland) County. Events fill up fast, but don't get discouraged if you weren't able to grab a slot this year; the annual event encourages residents to give back all year long, and with so many great opportunities in the area, they can always use an extra hand!
The Fuller Center in New Rochelle will also be hosting its annual Martin Luther King Build-A-Thon Breakfast on Sunday, January 19. The build-a-thon itself is ongoing through the 21st, so if you're in the mood to help create a home for local residents in need, this is a great opportunity to really give back.