How to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month With Your Family

How to Celebrate AAPI Month with Your Family - Illustration by Julie Bang

Verywell / Julie Bang

If you’re one of a growing number of parents concerned about the representation of marginalized communities, you should have Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month on your radar. It’s no secret that minority groups get short shrift when it comes to how American history is taught. Commemorative months can’t fix everything, but they’re a place to start. And with anti-Asian racism on the rise, it’s important for families to educate kids and disrupt stereotypes. 

Whether you’re looking to expose your kids to experiences outside their own bubble or make sure they see people who look like them accurately and positively portrayed, you’re going to want to check out these ideas—from shoring up your own knowledge to reading, watching, and crafting with your kids—for celebrating AAPI Heritage Month this May.

What Is AAPI Heritage Month?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. It’s a time to honor the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the history and culture of the United States. The AAPI community celebrates with festivals and educational activities that welcome all people to learn about AAPI history.

When Is It Celebrated?

AAPI Heritage Month takes place in May to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built largely by Chinese immigrants. It started in 1978 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week and was extended to a full month in 1990.

Why Is It Celebrated?

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 22 million Asian Americans living in the U.S. AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity for Asian Americans to take back the narrative and for allies to stand in solidarity with the AAPI community. 

Family-Friendly Ways to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

There are numerous great ways for the whole family to celebrate AAPI month.

Do Your Homework

Before you dig into any of these activities, you’ll need to be ready to answer questions from your kids, and some of those could be challenging. The PBS series "Asian Americans" is excellent, as is this timeline. You’ll also want to read up on the history of anti-Asian racism in the United States. And remember, if your kids ask you something you don’t know, it’s OK to say that and that you’ll find out together!

Read a Book

High-quality children’s literature is a great way to provide kids with both mirrors of their lives as well as windows into experiences unlike their own. So head to the library and grab some titles with Asian American characters, by Asian-American authors.

Favorite picture book titles include "The Name Jar" by Yangsook Choi, "Eyes That Kiss in the Corners" by Joanna Ho, and 2021 Caldecott Medal winner "Watercress" by Andrea Wang. For older children, try a graphic novel like "The Magic Fish" by Trung Le Nguyen, a chapter book like 2021 Newbery Award-winner "When You Trap a Tiger" by Tae Keller, or anything by Linda Sue Park.

Watch a Movie or Show

These days, there are a lot more movies and TV shows that feature AAPI characters and culture, and they’re available on a variety of streaming networks. On Disney+, there’s "Bao," "Big Hero Six," "Lilo and Stitch," "Mira," "Royal Detective," "Mulan," "Raya and the Last Dragon," and "Turning Red." If your kids are older, you might try "The Farewell" or "Minari." Just be aware of the ratings so you can decide what’s appropriate for your family. 

Visit a Museum (In-Person or Virtually)

If you’re fortunate enough to live near an Asian art or history museum, consider taking a family field trip. If not, you’re not totally out of luck, as many museums have virtual tours and online exhibits. Try the Asian Art Museum’s Museum from Home or the Virtual Asian American Art Museum. Google Arts and Culture offers a great round-up as well. And, the National Park Service tells stories of ordinary and extraordinary Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through parks, memorials, and historic sites.

Do a Craft

This is a perfect follow-up to a museum visit where you take the time to appreciate Asian art, especially because we need to be careful of cultural appropriation here. When planning your craft, make sure you understand its significance. It’s not just about doing something cute! So you can definitely make a Japanese carp kite. Just make sure you talk about the significance of the koi in Japanese culture. 

Try New Food

Eating at an Asian restaurant is a great way to support local, AAPI-owned businesses at the same time you expose your kids to different types of cuisine. You could also take them to an Asian grocery store (Pocky sticks are always a big hit with kids!).

Just be careful of falling into the tourist approach. When learning about other cultures, it’s easy to slip into the “food, dress, and holidays” trap and actually reinforce stereotypes. Avoid framing Asian food as exotic and don’t do this activity in isolation.

A Word From Verywell

As you celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, keep in mind that the AAPI community is not a monolith. There is a huge range of origins in the Asian-American community. The Indian-American experience is much different than the Vietnamese-American experience, for example. Focus on learning something new with your family through a variety of activities that show your kids the diversity as well as the impact of the AAPI community.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Endowment for the Humanities. Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage and history in the U.S.

  2. Pew Research Center. Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population.

By Kimmie Fink
Kimmie Fink is an educator, writer, and editor with a passion for all things kid-related. She spent 13 years as a classroom teacher before moving into writing full-time.