6 Things to Do with Children to Honor Black History Month

From book reading to cooking a traditional African meal to playing traditional African board games we have you covered.

Feb 8, 2019

February is Black History Month in the US and Canada and is a way of remembering important people and events that were frequently left out of the history books. Beginning as a rather humble 'Negro History Week,' it was expanded to a month-long celebration of black history and culture in 1976.

There is so much to do and see with children that a month may not be long enough. Here are some meaningful and relevant ways to introduce the history and people of the African American experience and to connect children with their African roots.

1. Read Books About Black History to Your Children

Children love to be read to at any age. Celebrate black history with stories about African Americans artists, athletes, and politicians that overcame adversity and made their mark on the world. Explore the history of slavery and the civil rights movement and biographies of the people who led the journey to freedom or read books that celebrate black culture. You can read Henry's Freedom Box about a boy who escaped slavery by shipping himself North or read about Who was Rosa Parks in a biography geared for children. Discover the lost history of African American inventors in What Color is my World.

2. Cook an African Meal

Cooking with kids is always fun and making traditional African dishes is a great way to celebrate. Traditionally, African cuisines used locally grown fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and meats. Here are just a few dishes that are easy to make:

  • • Peanut Stew – is a popular dish in Ghana, Senegal, and Kenya and is a hearty main dish. This is a must for kids who like peanuts and spicy food. Click here for the recipe.
    • Misir Wot - An Ethiopian stew that can be prepared with chicken, beef or lamb. This version of Wot is made from red lentils so it can be an easy vegetarian option. Click here for the recipe.
    • Benne Wafers – A traditional African cookie from Nigeria. They are crispy, nutty and extremely easy to make. Click here for the recipe.

3. Visit a Black History Museum

Take a road trip with the kids on February break. Here are just a few of the many museums that you can visit all across the county:

• National Museum of African American History and Culture Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC
• National Civil rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
• Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan
• Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, Washington
• African American Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• California African American Museum in Los Angeles, California

4. Make an African Shekere (Shaker Instrument)

Making homemade musical instruments is a fun craft activity, and kids will love constructing and decorating it now and playing it later. The Shekere is a West African percussion instrument that consists of a dried gourd with beads woven onto a net covering. Or you can use a plastic bottle that is filled with lentils or beans and decorated to make a simple musical shaker.

Here are easy to follow directions on how to make a Shekere. Or, you can watch this video for easy step by step directions.

5. Watch a Black History Themed Movie

Family movie nights are so much fun. Make a tub of popcorn and enjoy one of these suggestions:
• March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World - Scholastic Storybook DVD of 4 civil rights stories. Ages 4+
• 42 – An inspiring Biopic about the two years when Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier. Ages 10+
• A Ballerina's Tale – Examines the life and career of Misty Copeland the first African American principal dancer. Ages 9+
• Remember the Titans – a true story about the struggles and victories of a newly integrated high school football team in 1971. Ages 10+
• Hidden Figures – Is based on an inspiring true story of African American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and 1960s. Ages 10+
• Betty & Coretta – a biographical movie about the widows of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr that shows the civil rights movement from the perspective of the women who continued the cause after the death of their husbands. Ages 11+
• Selma - a historical drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. Ages 13+

6. Play African Games

Have a family game night with a cultural twist with one of these fun games for the entire family.
• Mancala – Believed to be the oldest game in the world, Mancala has been played in all the counties on the African continent. To play, you need a Mancala board with holes arranged in either two or four rows. Traditionally pebbles were used but commercial versions use marbles and the aim of the game is to move your stones around so that you can capture your opponent.
• Zamma – is a popular game in North Africa. Some boards have been found that date back to 1400. You use a 9x9 or 9x8 square board to play. Each player has 40 pieces, black or white and just like checkers, the pieces are set up on either side of the board with the center-left empty. The black pieces are the men and the white are the women.  The player who captures all the opponent's pieces is the winner.
• Butterfly – is a very popular game in Mozambique and also resembles checkers. The unusual board is consisting of two triangles that look like a butterfly. Two lines cross the width of the triangle and one runs down the length forming 19 intersection point that pieces are played on.  Each player has nine pieces and the goal is to capture all of your opponents' pieces.

BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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