7 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 daytrip it’s hard to beat Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT. In honor of MLK Day, a recording of one of King’s great speeches will play throughout the morning in the Multimedia Gallery (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), kids can create their own peace doves from 11:15 to 11:45, and enjoy a special story time and activity at 1 p.m. Guests will get a chance to read along with Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s BIG Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum admission is $15 for kids and adults, free for members.
Closer to home, Lil Chameleon in Tuckahoe will also be hosting a story time, with owner C.C. Benitez reading several stories “about acceptance, love and diversity.” Advance registration is recommended, appropriate for ages around 0-5. Free.
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, story time, and musical performances, but will also include African drumming by the Ptah Djembe Drummers, Professor Barbara Scanlon presenting her book on the life of civil rights activist Anna Arnold Hedgemen, and young authors presenting their own book, Journey of Heroes, written at the Lois Bronz Children’s Center.
You can also hold story time right in your own home. This MLK Day, consider introducing your little ones to Dr. 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 a special one-day baseball camp for kids aged 6 to 12 from 9 a.m. to noon, working on hitting, fielding, pitching, and baserunning. Tickets are $75.
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 Frankline D. Roosevelt, Martin Van Buren, and — yes — Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Sites.