Black History Month is a time to honor the legacy of African Americans, and as parents to mixed race children, it’s important for us to acknowledge the black history within our own family. But even if you aren’t raising black or biracial children, celebrating Black History Month is a great time to teach the beauty and richness of a culture that makes up a great deal of our national history.
My kids are still very young – a daughter who just turned 4 years old and a little boy about to be 2 – so celebrating Black History Month is done simply and intertwined with our values as a family. I want them to develop a foundation of adoration and happiness for their black family legacy, before images of slavery and the civil rights movements overtake the conversation. Surely, they will learn of these important occurrences, as every American should. But as my tiny preschooler looks down at her beautiful brown skin, I want her to feel pride, not fear of these horrific events or the inhumanity that allowed them to happen.
Here are 5 ways to celebrate Black History Month with children 5 and under:
1. Black History Children’s literature: While there are many children’s books available on Black history (as well as Martin Luther King, Jr, whose national holiday is celebrated in January), take a moment to browse the read before offering it your child. Also, be prepared to dive into conversation on the topics surrounding Black History Month, as deep or as shallow as your child wants to go.
2. Crafts: Do you know a little kid who doesn’t like crafts? Use a craft as the foundation for discussing what African Americans have done for this country. Since this year’s Black History Month coincides with the Winter Olympics, we made an Ice Skate Cheer Craft to cheer for Shani Davis and learned how he was the first African American to win winter gold for America.
3. Festivals: Most metropolitan areas will host a Black History Month festival, parade or other community celebration. Go! This the best way to celebrate Black History Month! Enjoy some soul food, listen to the beats that have influenced modern day American music and commune with others who want to honor the richness of African American culture.
4. Oral narration of family history: You don’t have to be black to have a family history that has been influenced by African Americans. Talk with your young children about black friends you have and how this month is meant to celebrate their ancestry. Talk about how proud they must be of their black history. Give your little one a personalized experiences and examples. Those lessons will go a long way.
5. Diversity: Ultimately, your little one will be most apt to honor Black History Month if there is a context within their own lives. Race and culture shouldn’t be thorns of conversation – they are meant to be celebrated and shared. Embrace multiculturalism and diversity in all sectors of parenting.
Vanessa Bell is the writer and Legacy Builder at the award winning blog, De Su Mama: Building a Multiracial Legacy. Most importantly, she’s the mom of two beautiful babies and is purposed to build a legacy they’re proud of.