The Pilgrims: Children of the Day

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There were thirty-two children who came over on the Mayflower.

The lives of children were spent with preparing them for adulthood. This meant that much of their day, from the age of five on, was spent working. This meant gathering wood and water, herding the chickens and running errands.

Older children would work closely alongside their father or mother to learn their roles once they reached adulthood and married. Chores include cleaning house, making bed, washing, cooking, grow herb gardens, caring for younger children, hunt, fish, farm, making wooden pegs, watching cornfields, picked mussels, dug for clams, gathered reeds, collected kindling, etc.

Parents made all of the decisions for their children in this 17th Century society.

Children were taught to read and write at home, as their was no formal school. Most children learned to read from the Bible in the evenings, after the work of the day was complete. The Pilgrim’s made horn books which was made of cow’s horn with a piece of paper printed with the ABC’s attached to it.

However, on occasion children were allowed to play. One source said, “Paintings from the 1600s show children playing games that we still play today, such as leapfrog, marbles and “ball and cup”. There were also board games, like Nine Men’s Morris and Naughts and Crosses (tic tac toe), and cloth dolls called poppets. Older children might exchange riddles or jests (jokes) with one another.”

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