Black History Month for kids: 13 activities for learning and celebrating (2024)

February is a dedicated time of the year to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of African Americans. And, while some schools have considered opting out celebrating Black History Month, others see it as an opportunity to learn more about a community that has persevered despite numerous obstacles. It’s also an opportunity to share diverse perspectives and observe the similarities in the values we all share. Black History Month for kids means helping young children understand why it’s important to focus on Black history, which is vastly underrepresented in the U.S., not only in February but all year long. Adults and caregivers can help them understand in various ways.

America has a complex past that includes the individual and collective stories of African Americans. For hundreds of years, Black people from across the African diaspora were pushed into the corners of society through slavery, segregation and unjust treatment. And, unfortunately, we are all still feeling the ripple effects of a system once built to disregard the humanity of Black people. It’s hard to explain racism to kids, but kids need to know that despite racism and unequal treatment, African American artists, writers, activists and community leaders have made countless contributions to create a better country and a better world, not just for themselves, but for everyone.

Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month?

Ayanna Gregory, artist, activist, educator and daughter of Civil Rights activists Lillian and the late Dick Gregory, says it’s about representation. “Black history has never been sufficiently included or properly represented in the fabric of mainstream culture here in America or abroad. And because of that, we all suffered that loss.”

“Black history has never been sufficiently included or properly represented in the fabric of mainstream culture here in America or abroad. And because of that, we all suffered that loss.”

—Ayanna Gregory, artist, activist, educator

Gregory adds that much of what is taught is incomplete. “In American schools, Black history usually looks like a brief chapter on slavery (told by the perspective of the oppressor) and a generic description of the Civil Rights movement,” she says. “There is usually no information or education around Africa’s rich civilizations and contributions to the planet dating back hundreds of thousands of years.”

Having a dedicated time each year to create Black History Month projects that focus on some of these contributions may spark a desire to learn more.

Why is Black history celebrated in February?

Before there was a Black History Month, former slave turned scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson created Black history week during the second week of February to honor the lives and contributions of African Americans. In 1976, it extended to the entire month and has been celebrated in February ever since.

13 ways to engage kids during Black History Month

Whether you’re a parent, grandparent or caregiver, here are several fun activities for bringing Black history into the everyday lives of children —during Black History Month, yes, but alsoevery other month of the year.

1. Read books about Black history and culture

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There are many books that highlight Black main characters or share the stories of famous figures in American history. Whenever possible, support a Black-owned bookstore and select books that can help kids learn more about the rich history, culture or traditions of African Americans. Some examples include:

2. Watch a movie about real Black lives and achievements

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There are several movies that kids can watch that share the experiences and achievements of African Americans. Watching a movie with an adult can help kids relate to the characters in the story and may be an easy way into difficult conversations.

Some examples include:

3. Imitate the style of a famous African American artist

There are many well-known African American visual artists that kids can learn more about during Black History Month, including painters, Jacob Lawrence, Alma Thomas or Kehinde Wiley.

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Elementary school art teacher Lori Auletta from St. Petersburg, Florida has her kindergarten students watch a short video about the life of painter William H. Johnson. They talk about the term “segregate,” look at Johnson’s style of using simplified and colorful shapes and discuss how paintings tell a story. Then she helps students use the collage technique, which consists of cutting out the simple, multicolored shapes they need to form their Black history month craft. She says parents and caregivers can show kids how to fold paper and cut symmetrical shapes to make clothing and added details for their characters. They can also add backgrounds by drawing or collaging the setting to tell their story.

4. Create a multi-sensory project to honor inventor Garrett Morgan

Even very young children recognize the three colors of a traffic light, but many don’t know much about the African American man behind the invention. TikTok influencer mom Celena Kinsey used rice, food coloring and hand sanitizer to create a multisensory project for her toddler to honor Garrett Morgan and his invention of the traffic light. You can try this at home too.

5. Create a craft to honor MLK’s vision for America

Using construction paper, kindergarten special needs teacher Amanda Lorenzo from Miami helped her students trace their hands on both manila and brown colored paper. Then she layered the hands over pre-cut clouds that said, “Peace.” She says, “This craft stood out to me because I was able to explain how MLK changed the world and let them know they can do the same.” This simple and fun craft activity can easily be done with kids at home.

6. Attend online cultural events

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There are several organizations offering online Black History Month activities for kids that educate and entertain. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will host weekly webinars in and workshops in a series called “NMAAHC Kids Learning Together.” This year’s featured webinar, “Meet a Bee Keeper,” led by Black founders from Detroit Hives, highlights STEM topics and focuses on how bees not only benefit the environment but can also improve urban communities. For more information on the museum’s other in-person or online events, visit the museum’s events page.

7. Put on a Black history production

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Kids love to dress up and take center stage, so the creative arts can be a great way for kids to immerse themselves in Black history. Gregory says the stage productions she hosted for Black children helped them learn more about their ancient past.

“I used to work with students in K-12 to put on elaborate student productions to celebrate the richness of Black history,” says Gregory. “From ancient Ethiopia and Egypt, to the empires of Mali, Ghana and Songhai, to the shores of America, students would learn about their history and then creativity tell the stories of African heritage on stage through song, dance, theater, poetry and visual art.” She says grown-ups can allow kids to star in their own history-inspired performances at home.

8. Color key history makers together

One low-pressure, relaxing activity that both children and grown-ups can do together is break out the color pencils, crayons or markers and color together. Children who are too young or too impatient for complex crafts, theater productions or art projects can find fun with coloring.

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Visit Classroom Doodles for several free, downloadable and printable Black history coloring pages.

9. Visit your local library

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Local libraries often host free Black History Month events and activities for kids all month long. Some have book lists, movie nights, crafts and more. The New York Public Library also invites African American authors in to speak about their books. Check out your library to see how you can get involved.

10. Piece together a puzzle

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Puzzles of Color feature the work of living African American artists to promote interactive artmaking for children and families and support Black visual artists. Completed puzzles can later become framable pieces of art.

Where to buy: Puzzles of Color “Dream of Venus in Spring II” Puzzle + Magic Mug Gift Set ($38, PuzzlesofColor.com)

11. Cook a traditional African or African American recipe

With the help of an adult, kids can try cooking new foods while learning more about Black culture and history. Try making okra, black-eyed peas, collard greens and sweet potato pie, which are common African American dishes that originated in the South. That said, some dishes eaten by African Americans and people all over the world originated in Africa.

Here’s an easy recipe to try. Crunchies, a South African oat and coconut snack, are really easy to make. Follow along with this Kids Kitchen video tutorial from the Gwinnett County Public Library.

Whatever you decide to do, make it fun and make it memorable so kids can see the value of learning about Black history as an important part of American history.

“When history is taught in a way that is balanced, honest and inclusive, everyone gets to see themselves as worthy and important.”

— Ayanna Gregory, artist, activist and educator

12. Recite poetry by Black poets

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Reading poems —which are short and often fun and easy to read — is another way to connect for kids to connect with African American culture and history. The Poetry Foundation has curated a list of poems by African American poets that parents can read and share with older children while The Academy of American Poets has curated a list of Black History Month poems for kids that are suitable for all ages. By reading and reciting poetry, children can learn a new way of expression while learning how poets use rhyme and other sound patterns to express themselves and their message.

13. Play a Black History Month-themed board game

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Play is often the best way to learn, so playing a board game that is both entertaining and educational can be a win for the whole family. Based off the popular game Monopoly, Ebony-opoly allows players to learn and celebrate the Reconstruction Era while they move around the board.

Similarly, Black Wall Street, a board game for kids aged 8+, allows players to practice financial literacy while learning about real thriving businesses that once existed in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the area once referred to as Black Wall Street.

The bottom line: Whatever you decide to do, make it fun and make it memorable, so kids see the value of learning about Black history as an important part of American history.

Black History Month for kids: 13 activities for learning and celebrating (2024)

FAQs

How to celebrate Black History Month in the classroom? ›

Black History Month Activities for Kids
  1. Write About Famous Quotes From Black Americans. ...
  2. Set Up a Door Decorating Contest. ...
  3. Study the Civil Rights Movement & Segregation. ...
  4. Take Virtual Field Trips. ...
  5. Get to Know Local Black Americans. ...
  6. Read Books With Black Protagonists. ...
  7. Create Timelines of Important Moments in Black History.
Feb 10, 2023

What can we learn from celebrating Black History Month? ›

This month-long observance encourages dialogue about race and equality, allowing us to learn from mistakes from the past and work towards a brighter future. It serves as an important reminder that diversity should be celebrated rather than feared or ignored – no matter what one's background may be.

How to explain to kids why we celebrate Black History Month? ›

Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.

How to teach kids Black History Month? ›

Select books that affirm a valued place for all children. Try to find books that will help prepare children for the complex world in which they live. Make sure your selections include contemporary stories. Celebrate Black culture and experiences, in addition to history, through picture books, chapter books, and poetry.

What is the Black History Month for kids? ›

Black History Month helps us learn about the contributions and achievements that black people have made in the past. In every part of history, black people have been treated badly because of the colour of their skin. This is called racism.

What are the colors for Black History Month? ›

The four colours that are used for Black History Month are black, red, yellow and green. Black represents resilience, red denotes blood, yellow is optimism and justice, and green symbolises rich greenery.

How to make Black History Month better? ›

Here are six of my family's favorite ways to infuse learning and celebration into Black History Month:
  1. Take a trip to the library. ...
  2. Teach them about Brown vs. ...
  3. Watch an arts performance. ...
  4. Get to know one historical fact or figure a week. ...
  5. Explore Black-owned businesses. ...
  6. Start new traditions.
Feb 3, 2023

Who has the biggest impact on Black history? ›

These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
  • Rosa Parks. ...
  • Barack Obama. ...
  • Frederick Douglass. ...
  • oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Harriet Tubman. ...
  • Medgar Evers. ...
  • Jackie Robinson.
Mar 2, 2022

What is the theme for Black History Month in 2024? ›

Each year, Black History Month brings another opportunity to discover contributions that enrich our nation. The 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the creativity, resilience and innovation from a culture that has uplifted spirits and soothed souls in countless ways across centuries.

How to introduce Black History Month to elementary students? ›

If you're just beginning to introduce kids to the concept of Black History Month, start at the beginning by discussing what the month honors, how it started and why it is important. National Geographic Kids and PBS Kids both offer kid-friendly walk throughs.

How to teach Black History Month as a white teacher? ›

Shy away from controversial, ambiguous, or unresolved issues. Share the real-life experiences about racial realities in developmentally appropriate ways. Think that you can't talk about black history because you're a white educator. You do not need to be a person of color to talk about race.

How to talk to elementary students about Black History Month? ›

Talk about the positives!

Remember–Black History is more than just hardship! Talk about the amazing contributions they have made to society as a whole. A great place to start is to teach your kids about the impact of Black music, Black scientists and inventors, activists, and any other important cultural contributions.

How do you teach Black history to students? ›

Below are some tips to help educators improve the way they teach Black History — in February and all year long.
  1. Teach through Black voices. Don't teach about Black history — teach through it, King says. ...
  2. Highlight the achievements of Black people. ...
  3. Center Black perspectives. ...
  4. Honor Black humanity.

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