How to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Kids in 2021

By:
Winter

This coming Monday, January 18, 2021, we celebrate and honor the life of the incredible Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The impact of his work is felt within every community in America. Take the time on Monday to talk to remind your children that it’s not just “another day off school,” but a day to remember a true leader in American history. Below you’ll find ways to engage your children in these conversations, as well as virtual events and resources to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Because schools are closed on this national holiday, we’ve also provided families with a list of other family-friendly events and day camps being run that day.

Ways to Talk to Your Children about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Read about his influence: Scholastic has compiled lists of Picture Books, Early Readers, and Books for Ages 10 and Up all about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We’ve already reserved Let the Children March and If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement at our local library.

Discuss your own dreams: I always think that children never get enough credit for their ideas. 2020 has left us all feeling defeated and discouraged; talking to your children about their hopes and dreams, both big and small, will be a meaningful catalyst for important family discussions.

Volunteer together: Dr. King dedicated his life to serving others. Use our list of Local Volunteer Opportunities to find a way for your family to make an impact on your community in 2021. We will be announcing a pickup/drop-off volunteer event very soon, so stay tuned!

Visit outdoor art: While indoor museums are currently closed, families can still look at the beautiful works of art created outdoors. The Martin Luther King Jr. Living Memorial is located at Marquette Park in Chicago. Beautiful murals titled “Earth Is Not Our Home” and “Have A Dream” can be found on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and 40th Street in Chicago.

Utilize online resources: The internet is full of amazing resources for families to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From PBS Kids’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day to National Geographic’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. videos, there are endless opportunities for learning. Feeling overwhelmed? Give the National Education Association’s list of Martin Luther King Jr. resources a try!

Kid-Friendly Events Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Beloved Community” Virtual Event (Elmhurst United Church of Christ)
January 18, 2021 | 10:00am – 11:00am
Join Rev. Robert E. Buckner II as he presents on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s social justice principles and contributions to society today.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Donation Parade in Carol Stream
January 18, 2021 11:00am – 12:00pm
Join community members as they collect paper products, cleaning supplies, and more for local families in need.

Virtual Programming MLK Day: King in Chicago (Chicago History Museum)
January 18, 2021 | 11:00am – 3:00pm
Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King with music performances, craft activities, storytelling, and more.

MLK Healing Peace Circle (Oak Park Public Library, Virtual)
January 18, 2021 | 11:00am – 12:00pm for grades 4 and 5, 1:00pm – 2:00pm for grades 6 – 8.
Children are encouraged to join their grade-level peers to discuss current politics and social injustices in a judgement-free environment.

King Day: A Virtual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday (National Civil Rights Museum)
January 18, 2021 | 12:00pm and 6:00pm
This virtual event will feature Dr. King’s work, as well as explain the history of his national holiday. Musical performances and storytime featuring the book My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart written by Angela Farris Watkins.

Choose Kind Storytime (Wheaton Public Library, Virtual)
January 18, 2021 | 2:00pm – 2:30pm
Join Wheaton Public Library as they honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special story time about kindness.

King Day Virtual Performance: Rebirth Poetry Ensemble and In the Spirit (Art Institute of Chicago)
January 18, 2021 | 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Youth poetry has been a key component to the Art Institute’s King Day celebrations in years past, and will be the focus of this year’s virtual programming. Participants must register in advance. Read more about all of their King Day offerings in 2021.

Events Not Running in 2021

In years past, many local museums have run engaging and thought-provoking events in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While not running in 2021, check back to see what they have in store for 2022.

Day Camps Offered on Monday, January 18, 2021

There are quite a few day camp opportunities for families that need childcare this Monday. Make sure to check their website as soon as possible, as nearly all require registration, and that’s sure to fill up quickly!

School’s Day Off (Elmhurst)
January 18, 2021 | 7:00am – 5:00pm

Day Off Fun (Addison)
January 18, 2021 | 7:00am – 6:00pm

School Day Off (Lombard)
January 18, 2021 | 7:00am – 6:00pm

All Day Camp (York Center Park District)
January 18, 2021 | 7:30am – 6:00pm

Day-Off Drop-Off (North Riverside)
January 18, 2021 | 8:00am – 3:00pm

School’s Out (Roselle)
January 18, 2021 | 8:30am – 3:30pm, with extended hours available.

ActivKids Days Off Club (Carol Stream)
January 18, 2021 | 9:00am – 4:00pm, with extended hours available.

More Kid-Friendly Events on MLK Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Day One-Day Camp 2021 (Naperville Area Humane Society)
January 18, 2021 | 9:00am – 12:00pm

NaturePlay Day (Downers Grove)
January 18, 2021 | 9:00am – 12:00pm or 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Must register in advance.

Snow Big Deal Week (Oswego)
January 18, 2021 | 9:00am – 6:00pm
Reserve your 2-hour appointment in advance.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Music Camps! (Bach to Rock, Naperville)
January 18, 2021 | 9:30am – 12:30pm
Must register in advance

Open Gym (Westmont)
January 18, 2021 | 10:00am – 4:00pm

Bringing the Zoo to You: Facebook Live (Brookfield Zoo, Virtual)
January 18, 2021 | 11:00am

Gnome Hunt (Morton Arboretum, Lisle)
January 18, 2021 | 11:00am – 3:00pm
Included with admission.

Archery: Families (St. James Farm, Warrenville)
January 18, 2021 | 1:00pm – 2:30pm
Must register in advance.

Farm Life in Winter (Kline Creek Farm, West Chicago)
January 18, 2021 | 1:30pm – 3:30pm

Ambassador Tour (Willowbrook Forest Preserve, Glen Ellyn)
January 18, 2021 | 10:00am – 11:00am or 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Must register in advance.

Winter Lights at Central Park (Oak Brook)
January 18, 2021 | 4:30pm – 9:30pm
Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance.

Holiday In The Park Drive-Thru Experience (Great America, Gurnee)
January 18, 2021 | times vary

For even more ideas, be sure to check out our Outdoor Activities Page, with kid-friendly fun for all ages!

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