image from www.wikipedia.com
On Monday, January 21, our nation will be celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  While his actual birth date is January 15, the holiday is always celebrated on the third Monday of January each year.

Regardless of your views on MLK Jr, there is no denying the role he played in the fight for equality for everyone.  This is an easy concept to demonstrate to young children as they are becoming more aware that God did not make everyone the same.  MLK Jr also believed in doing for others.

As a parent, I stress that even though we don't all look the same, act the same or live the same, we are all special to God and if someone is special to God, they should be special to us.  Also, we should be looking to serve others whenever we can.

Side note:  I don't think that it is necessarily fair to treat everyone exactly the same because God didn't make us all truly the same.  For example, I agree that handicap people should have reserved parking closer to a building.  While this may not seem "fair" to other people, I see it as allowing handicapped people equal access to a place they may not otherwise be able to go.  

I love these first two activities as they demonstrate that it's not what's on the outside that matters, but that we are all the "same" on the inside.  I found both of these ideas at www.everythingpreschool.com.

Different Eggs:  Buy some brown eggs and white eggs. Let your child observe the eggs.  Ask "How are the eggs the same?  different?"  Let your child open up one of each color egg.  The message is very clear. While the eggs are different on the outside, they are the same on the inside.  Explain to your child that this is just like people. God did not make us to look all the same, but basically, we are the same on the inside.  Then, use the eggs to make something with your child.  

Different Presents:  Buy a pack of stickers (or three of some other small item) and wrap them as three different presents.  Wrap one very pretty, one simple and put the last one in just a plain box. Have your child look at the boxes.  Talk about how they are the same and different.  Let your child pick a present to open.  Ask him/her why she chose the gift she did.  (How many of us have been at a White Elephant party and pick the package that "looks" nice?)  Then, open the other two presents.  While the presents are all wrapped different, the inside is the same; again just like people.

Take it further:  Introduce the word "discrimination" and talk about what it means. Ask your child how he/she would feel if he/she were not allowed to do something because of the color of his/her eyes, hair, skin, whether or not he/she was wearing pants, the color of his/her shoes, etc.  How does God want us to treat people?

This song is a nice follow-up.

sung to:  “Yankee Doodle”

by:  Jean Warren; www.preschoolexpress.com

Once there was a man named King
Who dreamed that everyone
Would not be judged by their looks,
But by the work they’d done.

Martin Luther was his name.
Let’s help his dream come true.
Equality for everyone.
                      It’s up to me and you!
Different Friends:  By this time in the lesson, your child should have a good understanding of what the words equality and discrimination mean.  You can demonstrate this further with your child's stuffed animals or toys.  Maybe the elephants won't play with the hippo because he doesn't have a trunk or the cows won't play with the zebra because she isn't a farm animal.  Watch and see how your child handles the situation.  Ultimately, the goal is to have all of the animals play together because God made all of them and they are all special regardless of what they look like, act like or live.  Matthew 7:12 is very relevant in this lesson--treat others like you want to be treated.

Take it further:  Read Sesame Street's We're Different, We're the Same.  I used to read this book when I did my "All About Me" theme, but it would also be a good extender for this activity.
I Have a Dream:  Now, ask your child what his/her dream would be for the world (or make it more simple by saying neighborhood or family).  Depending on your child's age, he/she may not totally "get" this concept, but just go with whatever he/she says.  Use this template from The Education Center to get started.  Have your child color in a picture of MLK Jr and cut it out.  Glue the cutout onto the center of a paper plate.  Let your child use red and blue (or any other color) to decorate the plate.  Next, cut out a cloud shape and help your child write down his/her dream.  Hole-punch two holes in the top and bottom of the paper-plate project and in the top of the cloud shape. Thread a 12-inch length of yarn through the holes at the top of the plate and tie the yarn ends. To connect the cloud cutout to the paper plate, thread a 12-inch length of yarn through the remaining holes; then tie the yarn ends.  Hang for everyone to see!

Change the World:  This is another idea from Everything Preschool. Talk to your child about how MLK Jr worked to change the world.  Then, talk to him/her about little things he/she can do to change the world.  Here are a few ideas to get the conversation going:
*Say "Thank You" 
*Smile at someone you see
*Hold the door for someone

*Let someone go ahead of you in line
*Give a hug (make sure you ask first!)

My Own Two Hands:  I have not read the book this quote comes from, but will be looking for it the next time we're at the library.  Print out this template from Preschool Daze and let your child use watercolors to paint the hand different colors.  Put on display.

For more books relevant to this topic, check out this link.

And just like Horton the Elephant says, "A person's a person, no matter how small."  So remember, EVERYONE can make a difference in this world.

We all should be thankful for the sacrifices and advancements made by Martin Luther King, Jr to work towards equality for all.   I hope that these activities will help your child learn more about who he was and what he stood for.

**All photos and text are property of Angela Pounders and can not be distributed without permission.  

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