preschool rainbow logo Preschool Black History Theme
Activities for Teachers of Young Children

Early childhood education Black history activities and lesson plans for teachers of preschool children. You'll find action rhymes, songs, art and crafts, a game, a skit and even a rap song in this theme that enhances curriculum and celebrates the contributions of African-Americans.

preschool education

Preschool Black History Activities

Black History: Jackie Robinson
During this preschool activity from Elizabeth O. children discuss their favorite sport, build vocabulary (conflict, unfairly, athlete, league) and listen to the story "Young Jackie Robinson, Baseball Hero" (A troll-First-Start Biography).

Materials: Child size t- shirt, white butcher block paper, picture of Jackie Robinson, blue paint, sponge letters (D o d g e r s).
In advance teachers:
1.  Trace t-shirt on white butcher block paper. Cut out enough for all of your students.
2. Use sponge letters to spell out 'Dodgers' across the t-shirt.
3.  Glue a picture of Jackie Robinson in the middle of the shirt.

Description: Begin this lesson by asking children, " What kind of sports / games do you like to play?" Discuss their favorite sport activities. Younger children may need pictures of different types of sports to open a discussion. After sharing their favorite activities tell the children:
We are going to read a story today about a man who played baseball a long time ago. His name is Jackie Robinison. Jackie loved playing baseball. He even won a very special prize for playing baseball so well. Jackie had a lot of friends and fans, however there were some people who did not like Jackie because he was black (or African American).
Read the story and pause at points you feel are important for your students to discuss.

Re-read the story if you feel it is necessary and after ask "wh" questions.
For example; "What other sports did Jackie like to play? What did Jackie do when he was called mean names?"  Invite children to make a Jackie Robinson Baseball t-shirt. Ask the children to sponge paint Dodgers across t-shirt and glue on a picture of Jackie Robinson.

Comments: Make the paper t-shirts a little wider so that lettering can fit. You may have to paint the letters in a semi-circle shape to make sure they fit.

The Friendship Theme  is in the Rainbow Resource Room.

Black History Month:  Sarah "Madame C.J." Walker
During this early childhood education activity Mikita shares her use of dramatic play as a means of introducing young children to an African American female inventor.

Materials: Hair combs, brushes, empty hair spray bottles, hair accessories, hair rollers, old pressing combs, hair dryer (remove the cord for safety), old curling irons (remove cord for safety), and a spray bottle.

Description: The children were introduced to Sarah "Madame C.J." Walker, the inventor of the pressing comb, and Lyda Newman, inventor of the hair brush. We transformed the dramatic play area into a beauty salon and the children enjoyed styling their dolls' hair. A small amount of water was poured into the spray bottle. The children sprayed the dolls' hair and set the hair on rollers. They did not spray each other, which was amazing.

We incorporatedmath into this fun activity. The children had to pay to have their doll's hair done. In the water play area, a small amount of tear-free shampoo was placed in the water and the children had an opportunity to shampoo the dolls' hair.

Black History

This preschool and kindergarten song is from Marilyn G. who says, "Exemplify unity through song and  help children understand that even though we may be different, we are the same in many ways. Send Dr. Martin Luther King's message to others."

Description: This is a song but it could be learned as a poem. It was written by a former preschool teacher, Esther Yost, of Ann Arbor,Mi., about 15 years ago:

I have a dream, said Martin Luther King
We're gonna make that dream come true.
Let freedom ring, said Martin Luther King,
It's up to me and you.
It's not the color of your hair,
It's not the color of your skin,
It doesn't matter what you wear, 
It's the character within.
I have a dream, said Martin Luther King
We're gonna make that dream come true,
Let freedom ring, said Martin Luther King
It's up to me and you.
Comments: I think that it's important that unity is stressed throughout the  year. We usually learn this song for Dr. King's birthday celebration, but the  children (along with their parent's) enjoy it so much, we continue to sing it.

Bulletin Board: Martin Luther King, Jr. 
During the creation of this preschool bulletin board Lori R. focuses on peace, harmony and friendship. 

Materials: Camera, film and a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Description: For this bulletin board you will need to photograph a few children  at a time.  To do this where in each picture the children will be at the same  distance, place a piece of masking tape on the floor for the children to stand  on, then another piece for the teacher to kneel on. Have children hold hands and  children on the ends to pretend they are holding another friends' hand.

After taking pictures of all children and having them developed (re sized if you'd like them bigger) attach the picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the middle of the board.  Trim around the children in the picture but do not separate them.  With the children whose picture is on the end, attach them to another child who is also on the end for the appearance that this is one large photo.

Write the words, "I have a dream today...that one day...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.  I have a dream today."

Comments: I don't talk to the children about "black and white" children but tell  youngsters that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted peace and harmony for everyone.  I say "all children will become friends".  I do not want to have children with friends of different ethnicities to focus on color since they have not at this point.

Activity for Martin Luther King Day
Older preschool children use fine motor skills as they discuss Dr. Martin Luther King's dream during this craft activity by Jan.

1. A coloring sheet of Martin Luther King
2. one sheet of Construction Paper (any color)
3. Cotton balls
4. Yarn (any color)
5. Scissors
6. Crayons
7. Hold puncher
8. Glue & pencils
9. white construction paper

Description: Ask children to color a picture of Martin Luther King. Then have  children draw a big picture of a cloud on the construction paper. Next, cut the  cloud out and glue cotton balls all over it. Then cut out the picture of  Martin Luther King. After that use the hold puncher to punch two holes at the bottom of the cloud and two holes at the top of the Martin Luther King picture. 

Next, cut a small piece  of yarn to tie the cloud to the picture of Martin Luther King then, using a small piece of white construction paper cut into a rectangle, write I HAVE A DREAM on it and glue it inside of the cloud. Encourage children to talk about what Dr. Martin Luther King's dream means to them.

Joining HandsJoining Hands
Cindy G. developed this kindergarten and first grade activity to allow children the opportunity to recognize that various ethnic groups have different colored skin and to promote tolerance and peace. 

Materials: Construction paper, pencil, children's hands, glue and scissors.

Description: Decorate your room with children's hand prints side by side. Children can trace their hands onto construction paper using black, white, red, yellow and brown paper to represent various skin tones found across our nation. Cut them out. Now, glue them together in a chain as long as you like.  They can outline a door, bulletin board or make a cute swag for your window.

Explain to your children that each hand reminds us that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. joined hands with people of all colors when he marched for freedom. 

Comments: Another idea is to make chain links in the same colors as above using  the same idea to discuss people of all colors.

Martin Luther King Celebration Quilt
Diane promotes self esteem as youngsters participate in this preschool craft activity.

Materials: Construction paper and pens, markers, or crayons and yarn.

Description: For a quilt, cut squares out of paper. Ask each child to draw a  picture of themselves and ask them what they want to be when they grow up.  Write what they say below the picture.  Then put all the squares together and  tie them with yarn.  Use blank colors to make a border and fillers.  Title the  quilt, "What I want To Be When I Grow Up". 
I hung this up during Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's. birthday and the parents loved it!

Martin Luther King Day
During this pre reading activity by Diane S. preschoolers use listening, creative and fine motor skills.

Materials: A story about Martin Luther King for preschoolers, writing papers that have a place for drawing and crayons.

Description: Teachers read a story about the civil rights leader's life and his dream to the class. Discuss the "dream" that Dr. King had and ask the children, "What dream would you like to see happen?" Have the children draw pictures depicting their dream and then children dictate their dream story which the teacher writes on the bottom of the paper. Teachers can do this as a whole class activity on large writing paper.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Teach young children about discrimination with this activity by Stacey.

Materials: Signs with rules that will be enforced in each classroom area.

Description: This is an activity that I read about in a magazine a few years ago. It works great!  Hang signs or post signs in each center with a picture of, for example, sneakers with a circle around it and a slash through it. This means that for the next hour, no one with sneakers on may play in that center. Use your imagination, you can do girls, boys, long hair, short hair etc.

Dr. Martin Luther King, "Friendship"
During this early childhood lesson plan Janet Carol helps preschool children recognize that,  "All of us should be friends and be cooperative with one another the way Dr. King wanted." 

Materials: Poster board cut in fourths, markers or crayons and yarn to make necklaces for friendship signs.

Description: I teach Head Start and we celebrate lots of cultural and ethnic holidays.  We also continue to develop ways that our parents can get involved with their children and the Head Start program. I send home a piece of cardboard and a letter telling parents to talk with their child about friendship.  I ask parents to tell their children that all of us are different and that is O.K.

Parents use the cardboard to help their child make a friendship poster and then the child brings the poster to class. In class, we attach the yarn and hang the posters on the children and we walk around to each classroom and sing a friendship song in honor of Dr. king's birthday.  This gives the children a sense of what Dr. King did in his peaceful marches and his love for his fellow man. The following is the song we sing:

Friends, Friends, 1,2,3,
All of my friends are here with me.
You're my friend, you're my friend.
You're my friend, you're my friend.
Friends, Friends,  1,2,3,
All of my friends are here with me.
The Friendship Theme is in the Rainbow Resource Room.

"A Dream Quilt"
Laura H., a preschool teacher from Kentucky, contributes this thoughtful African American history activity.

"We discussed Martin Luther King, jr. and talked about how he dreamed of a world where people didn't fight and hate people because their skin was different.  Then we looked in mirrors at ourselves and each other.  We also talked about what quilts are,  blankets or covers that are made of little pieces.

At art time each child drew a picture and dictated what they dream of becoming. Some examples were,  "I want to work with animals", "I want to cook the food",  "I dream of being a friend" etc.  Then we placed each individual picture on a large  piece of bulletin board paper with a border around the edge and titled it "Our Dream Quilt".

Language Activity: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A kindergarten teacher contributes this early childhood education activity that combines literacy with art saying,  "This activity addresses: fine motor, following directions, far point copying, higher order thinking skills, and problem solving."

"For black history one activity we do that the children love is to read the story Martin Luther King, jr. and then they make a bubble map using descriptive words from the story.  The children are given a doll of Martin Luther King, that they color and cut out. Then we pre-cut white index cards to look like clouds and they are given four. The children place their doll in the middle of a sheet of paper and use yarn to connect the descriptive clouds to Martin Luther King, jr.

Black History Month
Pam H. suggests including a peace table in your classroom.

Materials: A little imagination and a computer to design a peace prize.

Description: Teach young children about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., winner of the Nobel Peace prize and about the importance of getting along with others by talking about peaceful conflict resolution.  Set up a peace table where children can gather to settle a dispute. Provide all children with a 'peace prize' certificate at week's end.

Comments: Of course, anti bias and responsible conflict resolution should be  evident in our classrooms 365 days a year.

black history ideas  Center Activity Ideas
Teachers can use these center activities from Katherine L. to  celebrate some famous inventions by African Americans.

In our class study of famous African-Americans we set our center  activities up to highlight some important inventions by African-Americans. 

  • Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light, in art we paint a stoplight.
  • Sarah Boone invented the iron board.
  • George Sampson invented the clothes dryer.
 In dramatic play we set up a laundry center with clothes, baskets, iron board, and  an iron.  We use our kitchen set sink to wash the clothes in and we pretend our  stove is the dryer.
  • W. H. Sam mon invented the hair comb, so we added several  different combs in the sandbox and the children use them to make designs in the sand. 
  • George Grant invented the golf tee, so in our manipulative center we added a variety of colored golf tees and some pattern cards we made for sequencing colored patterns.
These are just a few ideas.  We used information from Mailbox Magazine Kindergarten Feb. / March 1999 to help with the center ideas.

Comments: We set up center time with a book from the magazine spotlighting some  of the inventions and then explain each center and the African-American  connection.  The children love the centers and my director thinks they are great!

Black History Skit: The Underground Railroad
Encourage preschool and kindergarten children to learn about Harriet Tub man and the Underground Railroad by acting out this skit by Marie D.

Materials: Some type of printed cloth, a belt and a book about Harriet Tub man.

Description: Teachers talk with children about how children who were slaves spent their day such as; cooking, cleaning and working in the field. Then talk about how the children in the classroom spend their day such as;  in school playing and at home watching television etc.

Next, read the book Follow The Drinking Gourd which is about
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.  You may have to add lib some of the story because it is a little long. Then encourage the children to reenact the  Underground Railroad.

The book explains how slaves followed the North Star to freedom. So one child  becomes Harriet Tubman, another child becomes the master and 2 children become conductors. The rest of the children are slaves.

The master orders the slaves around and says he will beat them if they do not listen. The children pretend to work until the master goes to sleep and at  night Harriet comes by to help them escape slavery.  The children follow her  instructions to be quiet and stay low.  Traveling by night, we pretend to be going through the woods. When we get to the safe house Harriet asks is it safe to stop here and the children respond, "Yes". We then go into the safe house to hide for the day and wait until the night so that we can begin traveling again.

The master wakes up and tries to find the children who are slaves. When he knocks on the door and says, "Have you seen my slaves?",  the conductors say, "No".  Then it's night again and we repeat the action as Harriet points to the North Star to show that we are on the right track. The next stop on the Underground Railroad is freedom. We make our way to the floor rug and jump for joy because we made it to freedom. 

Comments: After this activity / skit put puppets in a dramatic play area and the children can act out the story with the puppets.

Historical Information
George Washington  Carver (1864-1943)
An agricultural scientist, George Washington Carver devoted his life to research projects connected primarily with southern United States agriculture.  He derived many products from the peanut and soybean, but never patented any of his discoveries saying, "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?"

Cooking Activity:  A Peanut Butter Snack
For this early childhood activity young children will use counting, classification and sensory skills as they help prepare peanut butter.

You will need:
Measuring spoons, measuring cup, blender, plastic knives,
crackers, small bowls, small plates and napkins.
Unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 to 3 tablespoons corn oil to 1 cup peanuts
1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of peanuts

Preschool children can shell the peanuts and help measure the ingredients.  Place all of the ingredients in the blender and turn on at a low speed until the peanut butter is smooth.  Place the peanut butter in small bowls so children can use plastic knives to spread it on crackers for snack.

Pre-k children may enjoy singing the following traditional song while making their peanut butter.

Peanut Butter
Peanut , peanut butter,   (Whisper "Jelly")
Peanut, peanut butter,    (Whisper "Jelly")
First you take the peanut and you smash 'em,
  you smash 'em.
You smash 'em,  smash 'em,  smash 'em
  (imitate smashing peanuts)
Then you take the peanut butter and you
  spread it, you spread it.
You spread it, spread it, spread it.
  (imitate spreading peanut butter)

Peanut, peanut butter,  (Whisper "Jelly")
Peanut, peanut butter,  (Whisper "Jelly")
Then you take the grapes and you squish 'em,
You squish 'em, you squish 'em, squish 'em
   squish 'em.
  (imitate squishing)
And then you take the jelly and you spread it.
You spread it, you spread it, spread it,
  spread it.
  (imitate spreading)

Peanut, peanut butter.  (Whisper  "Jelly")
Peanut, peanut butter,  (Whisper  "Jelly")
Then you put the bread together and you cut it,
You cut it, you cut it, cut it, cut it.
  (imitate cutting).

There is an entire Food and Nutrition Theme in the Rainbow Resource Room.

George Washington Carver
Help young children learn about The Peanut Man with this very easy early childhood education activity by Kelly. 

Materials: Raw peanuts from the health food store, plastic baggies, paper towels and water.

Description: Plant a peanut in a baggie by having each child put one or two raw peanuts (go to a health food store for these) in the baggie along with a damp paper towel. Seal the baggie and observe how peanuts grow.

You'll find historical information, a cooking activity and a song related to  George Washington Carver later in this theme.

traffic light  Making A Traffic Light
Enhance your African American History curriculum with this preschool activity by Patricia N. which celebrates the invention of the traffic light by making traffic lights that are edible. 

Materials: Graham crackers, peanut butter, and red, yellow, and green M&Ms.

Description: After we discuss the invention of the traffic light, we make a traffic light out of one half of a Graham cracker. Spread on peanut butter and place the M&M's in the correct color pattern. LOTS more activities about Traffic Lights and other inventions can be found as you continue viewing this page!

art and craftsInventors and Inventions
During this early childhood education lesson plan preschool children will use problem solving, creative thinking and fine motor skills to develop their own inventions.

You will need: 
Materials for art and crafts such as pieces of wood, milk containers, pipe cleaners, paper clips, straws, tape, paper, glue, poster paint, markers,  crayons, elastic, fabric scraps, rubber bands, construction paper, pom-poms and a safety pin.

Teachers, explain to pre-k children that when a person has an idea to make something that no other person has ever made we call that person an inventor.  And, when the person creates a "new" device or thing that he / she thought of, we call what the person created an "invention". 

Next, show preschool children a familiar object such as a safety pin (and a few other interesting objects).  Tell them that once there were no safety pins, then a person, an inventor, thought of one and made it (invention).  Then talk about the inventor Granville T. Woods and his inventions. Ask youngsters to think of an invention they would like to create.  Remind them that it should be something "new" that other people could use.  Give children plenty of time to brainstorm ideas. Some children may want to work alone, while others may want to work in teams.

When pre-k children have completed their projects (they may need more than one day) encourage them to tell the class about their inventions by asking, "How can we use your invention? What art and craft materials did you  use to create it?"

Finally, place the inventions on display in the classroom for parents and visitors to see.  Include a child dictated description of his or her item. 
Extensions: Talk with children about African American inventors such as:

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)
Jan Matzeliger  (1852-1889)
Elijah J. McCoy  (1844-1928)
Granville T. Woods  (1856-1910)
Garrett Morgan  (1877-1963)
If possible, show pictures of the Black inventors you discuss. Talk with young children about important African American figures in American history. Try using,
The Book of Black Heroes: From A to Z, volume one
 by Wade Hudson and Valerie Wilson Wesley. 
This volume contains large black and white photographs of 50 heroes and heroines.

Granville T. Woods
Granville T. Woods (1856-1910) of Cincinnati invented Air Brakes, Steam Boilers and the Telegram system of sending messages while trains were still in motion in 1885. His inventions were sold to General Electric, American Telephone and the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.  During his lifetime he held U.S. patents to over 50 inventions.

song Granville T. Woods Rap Song
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.
art and craftsArt and Crafts: Traffic Lights
During this early childhood education lesson plan children will use observation, problem solving, and creative skills to create traffic light mobiles.

You will need:
Milk cartons, shoe boxes, black construction paper, black poster paint, red, yellow & green construction paper, items the young children can use to trace circles (masking tape roll,  circle blocks, small paper plates, small plastic bowls, circle shapes from games or puzzles) scissors, glue, markers, string or yarn for hanging mobiles.

Teachers, first talk with preschool children about inventions (see the lesson on "Inventors and Inventions").  Explain that the traffic light was invented by Garrett Morgan who also invented the Gas Inhaler. Ask, "Why do we need traffic lights?"  Talk about safety with children.

Next take a neighborhood walk and help young children notice or count how many traffic lights they see. When you return to the classroom provide children with the materials and ask them to construct their own traffic lights.

Using the black poster paint, children paint the milk cartons or shoe boxes. After the paint dries, children glue on the red, green and yellow circles. Finally, attach the string or yarn.
After the traffic lights are completed encourage youngsters to find places in their classroom or play yard where they might place their traffic lights. 
Block Area - directing traffic during dramatic play,
Exit doors - as s signal to children to walk quietly, not run, 
outside or into the hallway. 
Transportation Activity Plans are in the Rainbow Resource Room .

traffic light  Stop Lights: Flannel Board Activity
Barb K. teaches the children in her class about stop lights and safety with this preschool rhyme.

Materials: Flannel board, felt brown light, red, yellow, green circles.

 Traffic lights
 STOP says the red light
 GO says the green
 Wait says the yellow light blinking in between!
Action Rhyme: Stop at the Corner
Stop at the corner  (both hands raised)
Wait for the light.
Look to the left      (turn head to one side)
Look to the right    (turn head to other side)
If nothing is coming
Then start and walk   (pick up legs as if walking)
Go straight across the street
Be careful and don't talk    (Place finger at lips).
Safety Rhyme
Red says, "Stop"
Green says, "Go"
Yellow says, "S-L-O-W",
When crossing the street
These are the colors you need to know.
Game:  Red Light, Green Light
During this early childhood game pre-k children recognize colors and gain experience starting and stopping an action on signal. Preschool children will march around the room as the teacher holds up a green circle (light).  When the red circle (light) is held up this is the signal for all marching to stop - immediately.  Youngsters who do not stop are out of the game.

As young children learn to start and stop marching on signal, children can hold up the circles adding a yellow circle for "slow". Then add the words "Red light, green light, 1, 2, 3.

Song:  "See the Traffic Light"
(Sing this rhyme to any tune that works)

See the traffic light hanging in the air
When the light's a red light
You should wait right there.

See the traffic light hanging in the air
When the light's a green light
You should go from there.

Take a look in Preschool Books Listed by Themes for a list of multicultural picture books.  In the Rhyme Collection there are Transportation Rhymes.

Information for Parents & Teachers:
The Black Inventor Online Museum profiles more than 60 Black inventors and their contributions to society over the last 300 years. You will be taken outside of Gayle's Preschool Rainbow when you click on the link 

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