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15 ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. for kids

From speeches and walking tours to crafts and inauguration viewing parties, we found 15 great ways to honor Martin Luther King Jr. for kids.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at DiMenna Children's History Museum
 (Photograph: Camilo José Vergara)
Photograph: Camilo José VergaraMartin Luther King Jr. Day at DiMenna Children's History Museum
 (Photograph: Joshua Bright)
Photograph: Joshua BrightFamily Art Project: Freedom Pillows
 (Photograph: Courtesy of the Brooklyn Children's Museum)
Photograph: Courtesy of the Brooklyn Children's MuseumMLK Day at Brooklyn Children's Museum
 (Photograph: Elena Olivo)
Photograph: Elena Olivo27th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 (Photograph: Courtesy of the Children's Museum of Manhattan)
Photograph: Courtesy of the Children's Museum of ManhattanHarlem Gospel Choir at CMOM
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Manhattan Country School)
Photograph: Courtesy of Manhattan Country SchoolAnnual MLK Day Commemorative March
 (Courtesy Romare Bearden Foundation)
Courtesy Romare Bearden FoundationBearden Art Bonanza

Martin Luther King Jr. Day for kids is more than just a day off from school; it's the perfect occasion to promote core values like tolerance and freedom while honoring the legacy of the visionary civil rights leader. This year, there are lots of great ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. for kids. Little ones can settle in for story times and crafts centered around messages of love, peace and equality, while older kids can appreciate a civil rights–themed march, a scavenger hunt or a film screening lauding Martin Luther King Jr. and other illustrious African-Americans. This year, too, the holiday happens to coincide with President Barack Obama's inauguration. Catch a live screening of the ceremony at the Harlem Armory or at BAM as your family reflects on how far we've come in the 50 years since MLK delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Conversations with Anne: Letters from Anne and Martin

To commemorate MLK Day, actors portraying Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. engage in a dialogue on justice, freedom, antidiscrimination and the need to create a better tomorrow. The conversation is adapted from the text of Anne's famous WWII-era diary as well as Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963). Reservations essential; call to reserve your family's spot. All ages.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day at DiMenna Children's History Museum

Families can honor Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the long weekend at DiMenna. On Sunday, tots ages 4 to 7 will learn how MLK's simple ideas changed the world with a reading of Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (11:30am). On MLK Day, author Tonya Bolden reads from her new children's book, Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, and celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's famous decree (1pm). Meanwhile, kids can examine street art depictions of Martin Luther King in the New-York Historical Society's new exhibit, "The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara," and take part in scavenger hunts where they'll learn about abolitionist James McCune Smith (Jan 19–21 10am–6pm). All ages.

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MLK Day at Brooklyn Children's Museum

Brooklyn Children's Museum offers MLK-themed programming for kids of all ages. Tots under 5 will learn about Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of love, peace and equality and create a craft inspired by his ideas (Jan 19, 20 at 2:30pm; Jan 21 at 11:30am, 2:30pm). Meanwhile, older kids will investigate one of the civil rights leader's most famous quotes: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Inspired by his words, they'll then design an art piece to put his ideas into action (Jan 21, Jan 26 at 2:30pm). All ages.

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27th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter-actor (and personal friend of MLK) Harry Belafonte is the keynote speaker at BAM’s yearly celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Following the speech are performances by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Kindred The Family Soul as well as an art show by students from the Saratoga Village Community Center. Plus, since this year's MLK Day coincides with President Obama's inauguration, families can stick around for a live stream of the ceremony. Ages 5 and up.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at CMOM

All day long, the museum hosts art projects and activities that celebrate the life and mission of Martin Luther King Jr. Little ones celebrate New York City's diversity by making collages of the different people and places in their neighborhood (ages 2 to 4), while kids of all ages create a self-portrait to add to the "I Have a Dream" mural and learn how they can make a difference in their own communities. The celebration culminates in performances by the Harlem Gospel Choir (3, 4pm). All ages.

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Annual MLK Day Commemorative March

Join eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School as they lead a peace-minded walk through Manhattan. The students will stop at points related to the issue of civil rights to give public speeches they wrote for the occasion; sites include the ASPCA, the 92nd Street Y and the Museum of the City of New York. The walk starts at Gracie Mansion and ends at Manhattan Country School. All ages.

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Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day in Historic Harlem

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an educational tour around a historic neighborhood. Stops include the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Striver's Row, and sites associated with authors Zora Neal Hurston and Langston Hughes. Meet at the northwest corner of 135th Street and Lenox Avenue at the Schomburg Center. Ages 8 and up.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Special: Seneca Village

Before Central Park opened in 1857, the swath of green space between 82nd and 89th Streets was home to Seneca Village, the first known community of African-American property owners in Manhattan. On this walk through Central Park, families will uncover the history of the village and its inhabitants and learn what New York City was like in the first half of the nineteenth century. Meet at 85th St and Central Park West. All ages.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Family Story Hour & Crafts

Gather for a reading of Eloise Greenfield's The Great Migration: Journey to the North, a powerful story about African Americans leaving home to start a new life. Then, families explore the Eldridge Street Synagogue, where they'll learn about the parallel story of Jewish immigrants finding hope in a new land, and take part in a holiday-themed craft project. All ages.

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Artists Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

For its annual observance, the JCC in Manhattan gathers a range of performers who incorporate King’s vision into their work. Witness a crosscultural exchange as pianist Anthony Coleman, vocalist Anthony Russell and klezmer clarinetist Michael Winograd blend Hebrew, Yiddish, Yeminite and African-American songs with a contemporary jazz twist. Or catch Grammy Award–winning vocalist Catherine Russell as she delivers a performance celebrating civil rights in song and spirit. All ages.

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Tongues Untied, True Tales Told

At this screening celebrating African-American women in film, director Barbara Montgomery presents excerpts from her forthcoming film Mitote, about three African-American women in circa-1900 New Mexico and the historical incidents that shaped their lives. Following the screening, Montgomery will be joined by cast members S. Epatha Merkerson (Lincoln) and Ruby Dee (A Raisin in the Sun) for a discussion on the untold stories of African-Americans. Ages 8 and up.

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Bearden Art Bonanza

Kids of all ages are invited to explore the work of African-American artist Romare Bearden, then experiment with collage while listening to jazz. All ages.

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