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Children in Colonial America were treated differently than now. Most adults believed that children not only had responsibilities, but that they should work as hard as parents did. Boys usually worked with their fathers and learned the art of farming, while girls spent time with their mothers, learning important household duties.


During the colonial era, there was no free time. Children rarely had time to play. Some of them did not even have toys, so they built them up out from usual objects. Colonial kids had to live a tough life, and had to learn important survival skills.


5 Important Moments in Every Child’s Life

There were five important steps in a child’s life. Parents were very attentive to the infant’s needs after they were born.


  1. Being an Infant

In Colonial American, cradles looked different than they do today. They were of considerable size, very long and extremely narrow. The logic behind it was that children should, under no circumstance, curl up in their beds. Curling up would prevent children from walking later in life, so parents made sure there is enough room inside the cradles. Also, mothers swaddled their children in tight garments that would straighten their legs.


Once girls reached a certain age, they would be dressed up in tight corsets and fancy skirts. Boys would wear corsets too in order to strengthen their backs. The children’s bodies had to stay stiff.


  1. Between One and Two Years Old

One of the most important aspects during this time was preventing children from hurting their heads. It was believed that if they hurt their heads too many times, they would damage their brains. To help children walk, parents would attach cords to their children’s clothing, and lead the strings with their hands. The cords’ role was to teach children how to walk properly, so the parents did not allow children to sit when they were playing with the strings.


Sometimes, the babies were held on their feet for a very long time, so they would faint out of exhaustion. Audrey Hamilton, freelancer at SuperiorPapers and passionate historian, shares her opinion. “Teaching infants to walk using this technique was not healthy for the babies. That is one of the reasons why the mortality rate was extremely high during the colonial era. Of course, there was also the problem of disease and lack of hygiene. One in four children died before they even reached the age of two.”


  1. Between Three and Six Years Old

Both girls and boys wore tight corsets to correct them while walking. Back in the days, you could barely tell the difference between a boy and a girl. They did not wear underwear, and that made it practical for children to use the toilet. Children wore caps over their hair, and that made it even more difficult to distinguish between boys and girls.


Later in life, boys started to wear clothes that looked more like their fathers’. They needed to prepare for fighting and hunting.


Unfortunately, children were treated poorly back in the days, contrarily to what we see nowadays. Sometimes, boys and girls would not even be allowed to sit at the table with their parents. They stood behind the grownups, and the parents would hand out their food from the adults’ table.


  1. Seven Years of Age

At the age of seven, boys started dressing differently than girls. They wore breeches instead of stays. Girls kept wearing the same clothing until they reached the age of twelve. They wore the strings attached to their clothing for a long time, showing the world that they were still depending on their parents and were not independent.


  1. Between the Ages of Eight and Twelve

Boys went to school to learn how to read and write. Girls were kept in the house and taught household duties. They were allowed to work in the family business as well, and they learned how to behave properly by their mothers.



The lifestyle of children in the colonial America was way different than today. Kids were treated harshly most of the times, and their duties started at a very early age. Many children died young because of the poor conditions they were raised in, but the ones who lived became powerful leaders of their colonies.