9 Ways to Spend MLK Day as a Family
Kid-friendly activities and events to entertain your little ones on their day off from school (and maybe sneak in some education).
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.
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 daily story times at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the museum will honor Doctor King with crafting activities like making posters and dream catchers, followed by a viewing of King’s famed I Have a Dream speech in the Multimedia Gallery. Museum admission is $15 for kids and adults, $10 for seniors, and free for members, infants, and active duty military and their households.
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 and the Ricardo Gautreau Duo, plus visits and readings from authors C. Duane Wheeler and Eric Velasquez.
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 are $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
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!
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.
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.
If you’re just looking for something to get the kids out of the house for a few hours, however, A-Game Sports in New Rochelle is hosting special one-day sports camps for kids aged 3 to 5 and 6 to 12, from 9 a.m. until noon, working on athletics, sportmanship, and the fundamentals of each game. Registration for half- and full-day camps ranges $70 to $130.
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.