February is Black History Month here in the U.S. While Black history should not be siloed into one specific month—it is American history, and should be celebrated year-round—we use this month in particular to uplift and recognize the achievements, contributions, and struggles of African Americans in our country’s history.
History is a complex subject, especially American history. Many parents often wonder how to best broach subjects such as race and culture in history with their kids. This month presents an opportunity to teach with intention: to uplift the outstanding achievements of Black Americans in our history, while also not shying away from the historical oppressions Black people have faced in this country.
By virtue of the historical record, Black History Month presents a great opportunity to teach about resilience: fighting for what’s right, using your voice, and creating an equitable world. Research ahead of time, and use this month to highlight the contributions of Black Americans to culture, art, civil rights, science, history, and more. Whether it’s with books and movies, museum trips, crafts, or other activities, there are a number of ways you can use this Black History Month to engage your kids with an important part of American history.
Black History Month Bulletin Board
Plan out your month of activities. Compile a list of different African-American cultural figures you and your child want to learn more about this February. Be sure to involve your kids in the planning process! This will keep them engaged, and make the month a group research project, rather than just an at-home lesson.
Your kids will likely cover some influential historical figures in school this month but don’t stop at whatever happens in the classroom. Perhaps see who they are learning about at school first. You can then either do supplementary research on those figures or introduce more! Ask your kids about what they already know, then have your own list ready to fill in the gaps.
Consider assigning each influential figure to a different day of the month. This will encourage your kids to engage with material all month long, and give individual figures the time they deserve. Research where figures are from, the time in which they lived, any items or work associated with them.
If your kid has any hobbies—for example, science, art, theatre, dance, sports—perhaps channel focus there. Highlight the achievements and contributions of Black Americans to their passion subject, so your kids can see how history directly affects them.
As you learn more about each individual, have your kids add their new discoveries to the bulletin board. By the end of the month, you should have a beautiful collage of history!
Reading About Diversity
If you’re not sure how to best broach a subject or story, it’s often best to turn to a professional storyteller. February presents an opportunity to focus your child’s reading on Black authors and stories. You can find many books to not only share the stories of important historical figures but also provide insight into the everyday life of Black Americans. Use this time to introduce your kids to Black authors in their favorite genre too, so they can experience fresh takes on, say, sci-fi or fantasy.
Another way books can be extremely helpful is in teaching about racism. It’s an unfortunate part of American history that still lingers today, and parents and teachers are growing more proactive about breaking generational habits by providing early education.
The issue of racism is very complex and can get difficult to break down for a child. We must remember that at young ages, children are ready to explore empathy and what it means to them. Using books to help them understand racism and asking questions about how it makes them feel can help kids to empathize with others and connect with what we all have in common—being human.
Crafts and Creativity
It’s time to head to the craft cabinet! Your kids will love the chance to create the next work of art that will grace the refrigerator. Celebrating Black History Month with arts and crafts is a great way to grab your kids’ attention. For example, check out some of these fun crafts:
- Learn about Black music history with a jazzy little craft like making their own trumpet work of art
- Research and create freedom quilts, creative tools used to help Black Americans escape slavery
- Honor the inventor of the traffic stoplight, Garrett Morgan, by having students create one themselves
These and more activities provide a great way for you or your babysitter to pass the afternoon with your kids. Each of these ideas provides a hands-on learning activity that can connect them with historical figures. Take time during the crafting to discuss what these figures contributed to culture, and the values to be found in their stories.
Black History Is American History
The beauty of our country is in its diversity. In every state across the nation, different cultures, religions, identities, and ethnicities exist as neighbors and united communities. This is so important to teach to our kids. No matter what we look like, what truly matters is who we are, what we stand for, and how we serve others.
As you plan your Black History Month activities, remember that you should incorporate these lessons year-round. While we take this month to highlight Black History, these stories are a significant part of American history and should be treated as such. Revolution and resilience have always been at the heart of what it means to be American.
Don’t let your work schedule keep your kids from learning more this Black History Month! If you have a busy schedule this February, you can always hire a babysitter who can help with some of the activities suggested above.
Nanno has a network of sitters available, on-demand, across most metro U.S. regions. Their sitters are all thoroughly vetted beforehand, and you can search for professionals according to your needs and specifications. Find a passionate childcare professional who can help teach your kids about Black History Month today!