History is sometimes hard for children to appreciate, but there is so much more to history than lectures and textbooks. Make Black History Month come alive with some of these fun, kid-friendly activities.
Read, Read, Read!
One of the most important things you will ever do with your child is read. The key to a better life is education, and it is never too early to commit to helping your child succeed in school. Children’s book lists across the nation have recommended dozens of books for children in grades Pre-K to 12 to celebrate Black History Month.
Whether your little one loves a bedtime story or you have a strong independent reader, you can find excellent books to help increase literacy skills while teaching your child about black history and culture all at the same time. Some of the recommended titles include In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers by Alan Schroeder, Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Gregory R. Christie, Chains by Laurie Anderson and Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. These highly engaging and beautiful works shouldn’t be missed.
There are many family-oriented movies that can help teach children about African American heritage without being too graphic. The Rosa Parks Story (NR), for example, is an award-winning made-for-TV movie that brings Rosa Parks’ story to life and teaches children how one person can make a huge difference. The Tuskagee Airmen (PG-13) depicts the true story of the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II and shows children how real people broke the race barrier in the United States military. Other kid-friendly movies include Ruby Bridges (NR), Hoop Dreams (PG-13), Pride (PG) and Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored (PG).
Arts & Crafts
Kids love hands-on activities and this is a great way to keep them engaged while celebrating black history. There are plenty of websites, such as theholidayzone.com, that can help you decide which kinds of crafts would be best for your family, but here is a sample activity called a paper quilt that can be done all month long:
Do some research, either on the internet or at your local library, to discover some influential heroes of the Civil Rights movement such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Mary Mcleod Bethune. After reading about each person, have your child draw a picture of that person based on a scene from his or her life. If your child is old enough, encourage him or her to write a few bullet points. Mount each picture on a larger sheet of colored paper, and attach the pages to a wall to form a quilt of famous African-Americans.
Did you know that many prominent Civil Rights leaders are still living today? Do a little bit of research on someone like Dorothy Cotton or Charles Evers, and help your child write a letter to say thank you and say what they admire about that person. You can find a full list of civil rights leaders on Wikipedia.com as well as contact information for most people listed.
Do an Interview
Chances are, you know someone—a church member, a neighbor, the gentleman that bags your groceries—that lived through the Civil Rights era. Ask if he or she would be willing to sit down with your child(ren) and answer questions in an interview. Help your child come up with some questions beforehand, such as, “How did you feel when you could start going to school with white children?” “What do you remember most from the Civil Rights era?” Talking to a real person with real experiences can make history truly come alive for yourself and your child.
Make Some Homemade Peanut Butter
Does your child live on peanut butter and jelly? He might like to know that George Washington Carver is the man to thank for that. Do a little bit of research on George Washington Carver and discuss his life and inventions. Then, to honor his life and his most well-known invention, peanut butter, make some of your own to enjoy with your child with this recipe from Alton Brown:
15 ounces shelled and skinned roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
Place the peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.