Crafts, Games, and Play Ideas to Celebrate Black History Month
In February, schools and churches throughout the U.S. commemorate Black History Month with special activities for kids.
Did you know that Black History Month was established in 1926? That year, Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson and other scholars launched “Negro History Week,” so that Americans could reflect on the history and contributions of African Americans. In the 1970s, the celebration of African American history was expanded to include the entire month of February.
Black History Month should not be confused with a national holiday for African countries. African countries have their own national holidays at various times throughout the year. For example, Kenya’s national holiday is on December 12th.
Whether you’re looking for games, plays, art projects, or other Black History Month ideas, read on for 15 ideas and inspiration to keep your kids busy all month long!
1. Create a Black History Month bulletin board of impactful African-Americans and key leaders.
Put together a bulletin board with the children compiling a list of 100 African-Americans that have made a difference. Introduce the purpose of celebrating Black History month and include black leaders in your display.
Black History Month usually will coincide with the 100th Day or School. This board could celebrate both occasions!
2. Write a letter to a friend or relative about Black History Month.
Ask children to choose a friend or relative to write a letter to about Black History. Have them include a purpose for the special occasion, contributions of two or more leaders and the most interesting piece of information learned about Black History. Post the children’s letters. At the end of the month, the children can send their letters to their chosen recipients.
3. Create a Black History Month quilt.
Have children choose one or more biographies to read, then encourage them to draw a picture based on one scene from the life of each person about whom they have read. Mount each picture on a larger sheet of colored paper, and attach pages to wall to form a quilt of famous African-Americans. Purchase, or download age-appropriate biographies of influential African-Americans.
The following list can get you started!
•George Washington Carver
•Booker T. Washington
•Garrett A. Morgan
•James Weldon Johnson
•Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
•Mary Mcleod Bethune
•Marian Anderson: singer
•Maya Angelou: singer, actress, activist, writer, poet
•Lil Hardin Armstrong: jazz musician
•Pearl Bailey: singer, performer, stage, film, special ambassador
•Marian Anderson: singer
•Regina Anderson: librarian, playwright
•Josephine Baker: entertainer
•Willie B. Barrow: minister, civil rights activist
•Daisy Bates: journalist, civil rights activist
•Mary McLeod Bethune: educator, racial justice activist, New Deal government official
•Gwendolyn Brooks: poet, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1950, poet laureate of Illinois
•Marita Bonner: writer, educator
•Shirley Chisholm: politician
•Ruby Dee: actress, activist
•Mae Jemison: astronaut, physician
•Barbara Jordan: politician
4. Create a black and white Black History Month collage.
Each person will need:
- one sheet of black construction paper
- one sheet of white construction paper
- one brightly colored sheet of construction paper
- Tear black and white sheets into small pieces (>1/2″ square).
- Paste the black and white pieces on the brightly colored sheet to create a unique collage.
- Some people may choose to create identifiable objects. Others may create geometric designs or a patterned “quilt.”
After all pieces are completed, allow children to show their pictures and briefly describe them.
You can point out to children that neither the black nor the white alone would have created an interesting picture, yet the two could be combined into many interesting patterns. In short, they were more productive working as a team. Discuss the need for teamwork, whether it is in the home, the classroom, the workplace or the community at large. What are some tasks that require group effort?
You might also encourage children pay special attention to the differences between the pieces. Point out that just as no two pieces are art are alike, no two people are alike. Each person has a unique purpose in life, and the home, church, community, and society as a whole are benefited when each person finds and fulfills his purpose in life instead of seeking to be “just like” another individual.
Consider the lives of Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Colin Powell. Each has significantly influenced not only the African-American community, but all of American society. What would have happened, however, if any of these individuals had tried to be “just like” one of their predecessors?
5. Re-enact a Black History Month story book scene.
Invite the children to read one of more of the stories such as one about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
After reading the book, children can write a skit, practice, and perform!
6. Re-enact a Black History Month story through art.
Read a book and then have children draw/color/paint pictures based on something they found profound or interesting in the story.
Using the children’s creative efforts, make a display wall. After the wall is taken down, the art can then be compiled into a program/classroom booklet.
7. Enjoy African food.
An African meal example:
•WKoki- an appetizer made from black-eyed peas
•Peanut Soup -a pan-African and African-American favorite
•Yams , or their American relation, sweet potatoes
•Fruit Salad or Coconut Pie for dessert
•Beverages: Green tea with mint, (iced, if you like)
A wide variety of tropical fruits, both native and non-native, are cultivated in Africa and eaten as a snack in salad form.
In Western Africa, the closest thing to a dessert course is the “after-chop” and a popular “after-chop” is fruit salad.
In Eastern Africa, Swahili people make a ‘Saladi ya Matunda’ for dessert. One interesting thing about the African fruit salad is the use of the avocado. A fruit salad can be made from just three or four of the ingredients listed below.
Any of the following (fresh or canned): avocado, banana, grapefruit, guava, mango, melon, orange, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, tangerine, juice of one lemon, crushed mint leaves, grated coconut, or chopped roasted peanuts, sugar or honey.
8. Celebrate Black history’s inventions: let children come up with their own inventions!
Provide materials such as- pieces of wood, used CD’s, milk containers, straws, tape, pipe cleaners, paper clips paper, glue, poster paint, markers, crayons, elastic, fabric scraps, construction paper, pom-poms, rubber bands and safety pins.
Children can work individually or in small groups. Give them plenty of time to brainstorm ideas. Challenge children to come up with unique, creative, and useful items.
The kids may need more than one day to complete their projects. When complete, share the inventions with the group and invite them to share:
• What is it?
• What does it do?
• What materials are used to make it?
9-16. Celebrate Black History’s Greatest Inventors
First, learn about a few of them in this video:
Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic light
9. Make a Traffic Light snack.
Peanut butter or chocolate frosting (Sample is frosting)
Red, yellow and green M&Ms
Spread peanut butter or frosting on a one quarter piece of graham cracker. Place this on the top of a craft stick. Place the m&m’s in the pattern of a traffic Light. Snacks can also be made without the craft sticks.
10. Play “Red Light, Green Light.”
Select one child, or perhaps yourself, to start the game and be the “stoplight.”
Instruct all the children to line up on the other side of gym or field.
The designated stoplight yells “Green light!” and the children lined up start running.
The first one to make it to the stoplight wins and is now the stoplight.
It gets tricky when the stoplight changes, though.
The stoplight should yell “Red light!” to get children to stop.
Any movement by a child means she is sent back to the beginning.
The stoplight can also call out “yellow light” which means the children can only walk very slowly. Variations to this game include yelling “red light” two times in a row, or adding body movements.
Say “green light” with your arms up one time and then say “red light,” but throw your arms up again to confuse runners into thinking your body language says “green light.”
11. Play the traffic light drama game.
To prepare for the game…cut out a red circle, a green circle and a yellow circle on colored construction paper or cardstock. You can also color it in on white paper.
To lay: With music playing in the background, have children start “driving” around the room. They should make beeping and engine noises while doing so. They can pretend to be buses, cars, trucks or bikes – whatever they like.
Every couple minutes, hold up a colored circle and call out either…
“Stop – the lights are Red!”” or
“Slow down – the lights are Yellow!” or
“Go, go, go – the lights are Green!”
If the lights are red, the children must stand absolutely still. If they are yellow they must slow down. On green they move around normally. When ending the game ask all the “vehicles” to neatly park.
12. Draw or paint a traffic light.
Granville T. Woods, inventor of the telegraph
13. Rap about Granville T. Woods and his inventions
Granville T. Woods RAP SONG… RAP can be Fun! It stands for “Rhythm & Poetry. A fun way to get Literacy into the program! Can you group come up with any other RAP songs?!
Granville T. Woods was an inventor you see,
He made lots of things very positively.
Mr. Woods invented the telegraph,
Which let trains know what was in their path.
Granville invented one incubator,
Which saved lots of chicken 2 months later.
Granville T. Woods was a very smart man.
His inventions are used throughout the land.
George Washington Carver, agricultural scientist.
Among the products created by Carver from various foods are the following:
Adhesives, Axle Grease, Bleach, Buttermilk, Chili Sauce, Cream, Instant Coffee, Linoleum, Mayonnaise, Meat Tenderizer, Metal Polish, Paper, Peanut Butter, Rubbing Oils, Shampoo, Shaving Cream, Shoe Polish, Sugar
14. Make homemade peanut butter.
Before starting this project, check allergy records children and send a note to parents, informing them of the project.
4 cups of shelled peanuts
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1. Have kids help you shell the peanuts and place them into the food processor.
2. Measure and pour the vegetable oil into the food processor.
3. Have another student volunteer add three pinches of salt.
4. Turn the food processor on and blend ingredients. You may need to stop every now and then and scrape the sides. If the peanut butter looks too hard, then add a little oil at a time until it becomes smooth.
5. Have children come to the bowl to spread peanut butter onto a cracker.Ask kids if they like the peanut butter.
Extension Idea: Compare store bought peanut butter to the homemade peanut butter and chart the differences.
If you want to try this other ways, you can also:
Add some honey for the oil
Add pecans, sunflower seeds, and other nuts or some chocolate or butterscotch chips
15. Grow a peanut in a baggie.
Raw peanuts from the health food store
Plant a peanut in a baggie by having each child put one or two raw peanuts in the baggie along with a damp paper towel.
Seal the baggie. Keep paper towel damp-but briefly open every couple days as not to mold. Observe how peanuts grow
After enjoying these Black History Month activities throughout the month, celebrate cultural diversity all year long! Check out these links for other Diversity-related celebrations: