February is Black History Month and as a mom of three little ones in a blended family who are growing up in a country – and a world – full of diversity, I believe it is imperative to educate them on their background, where they come from and also about the history of this country’s people, struggles and progress. Black History Month is a chance to focus on one aspect of our history and also teach our kids about some of the great strides made in our country. For children, it is so important that they are able to see and identify with greatness in our history, but also understand the struggles of others. Here are a few ways you can engage your kids in Black History month:
Have a Conversation
I know sometimes as parents, having certain conversations can be a challenge. Sitting my 4-year-old down and explaining to her where she came from has definitely been one of those challenges for me. I, like so many others, have a blended family so my daughter has a hard time making the distinction between ethnic backgrounds and why it even matters. To explain where she comes from, I try using things – activities, examples or analogies – I know she can understand. I often do this through cooking. Baking a cake is a fun way that I can show how each part is important in making a great whole, and even though you add different color ingredients the cake may turn out another color completely – and then add icing and everything changes again! At age 4, this is a simple example that I use to show the importance of every person’s ethnic make-up and explain her own blended ethnicity in 4-year-old terms. For others it might be talking about friends – how we are ALL different and the importance of learning about them, or talking about a painting that uses lot’s of different colors and techniques to make something beautiful, etc. Starting a conversation about Black History and diversity is a great thing for kids…and adults too.
Create An Activity
Here are some other activities we often use to teach our kids about Black History Month:
- Watch the Movie Our Friend Martin.
- Make flash cards with black historical figures and work through them with you child. You can challenge them to see how many people and facts they can memorize.
- For younger kids, play dress up – have them dress as some of the great athletes, inventors, or leaders in Black History and explain what made them great. Great Black Heroes is an amazing reference site for this!
- Make a life size timeline out of construction paper with major events in Black History. Allow your kids to color or paste pictures from magazines that fit into the timeline.
- Have a scavenger hunt around your house with post-it notes or cards labeling items made by Black inventors and see how many your child can find.
Read A Book
Here are some of my family’s favorite books for learning about and starting a discussion around Black History:
- My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth
- Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
- Freedom’s School
- Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
- Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman
- Pretty Brown Face
Tennessee has several amazing museums and education centers that focus on Black History in our country – these could provide memorable and educational experiences for you and your kids:
- Bessie Smith Cultural Center, Chattanooga, TN
- National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN
- Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center, Henning, TN
- Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, Memphis, TN
- Green McAdoo Cultural Center, Clinton, TN