The full impact of Martin Luther King’s work for racial equality and civil rights may not be preschool material, but you can introduce your little one to the ideas of cooperation, acceptance, peace and compassion for all through simple arts and crafts. Emphasize friendship that goes beyond differences and aspirations for the future. Practice helping and serving others. In his book, “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela asserts, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Martin Luther King arts and crafts for children provide opportunities for you and your child to engage in natural conversations that plant the seeds of compassion from which grow love, kindness, acceptance and the equality of which he dreamed.
Multicolored painted or paper handprints demonstrate the beauty of combining many colors, whether in art or human relationships. Cut out a cardboard ring and have your child cover it with painted handprints in all the colors of the rainbow or several different skin tones. Alternately, you can trace and cut out construction paper handprints for him to decorate his wreath or tape them together to make one long garland. Use skin tone construction paper to create personalized puppets that mimic your child’s actual appearance. Let him tape or glue on yarn hair and color in eye color and facial features. Attach the face to a craft stick, paint stirrer or paper bag to complete the puppet. Compare features and point out that your child can be friends with people even if they have different features. Cut or tear various shapes out of black and white paper. Lay some black on a black background or white on white and ask your child if it makes a very interesting picture that way. Now try a black-on-white or white-on-black and ask which picture — the monotone or two-tone — is most eye-catching. Talk about how the world would be boring if everyone was exactly the same. Let your child glue black or white shapes on the contrasting background in a collage. Another variation is to use both black and white shapes together on a brightly-colored background.
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is arguably his most well-known oration and can serve as a vehicle for talking to your little tyke about her own hopes and dreams for the future. Cut a cloud shape out of white construction paper or poster board and act as your child’s scribe to write her own dream or goal on one side. Alternately, she can draw a picture of her dream on her cloud. She might tell you what she wants to be when she grows up or share a larger dream for the good of many. She might say she wants to cure cancer so her Grandpa won’t be sick anymore. She can glue cotton balls or cotton stuffing around the words or picture and the back of the cloud and hang from the ceiling or a mobile or glue it to a backdrop for a poster. If you have several children who make a poster, you can tape them together side by side horizontally and vertically to create a paper quilt for a conversation-starting display.
In the old classic song “Ebony and Ivory,” Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sing, “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony, side by side on my piano keyboard. Oh Lord, why can’t we?” Wearable multicolored crafts remind your tot that different colors can peacefully co-exist, an idea he can imitate in his friendships and the way he treats others. String colored cereal loops on yarn to make a colorful necklace or bracelet. Alternately, use chocolate loops and plain loops for a brown and white bauble. Twist black or brown and white pipe cleaners together and bend them into rings, bracelets or necklaces. Supervise at all times.
Snack crafts are not only a popular hit with kids of any age but provide an opportunity to teach your child about the importance of serving others with compassion and kindness. Regardless of which snack you choose, tell her that she is making it for someone else. It could be a family member, a classmate, a friend or a neighbor. Or he can deliver the treats to a nursing home or a shut-in or someone who is recovering from illness or surgery. He can frost white cupcakes or sugar cookies with chocolate frosting or chocolate cupcakes or cookies with a white frosting or frost them half and half. A snack mix can spark discussions of how putting many different things together makes a yummier snack, just like having all different kinds of friends makes the world a nicer place to live. Provide zipper bags and an assortment of ingredients such as pretzels, graham snacks, cheese snacks, candies, snack crackers, raisins, nuts (provided there are no nut allergies to consider), dried cranberries or other dried fruits and shredded coconut. Let your little one fill each baggie with various combinations of ingredients, seal it and deliver it to the intended recipient.