What Was Life Like for Children in the Colonies?

Life in the colonies was hard for everyone, but children had an especially difficult time, mainly due to high infant mortality rates, and the overwhelming Puritan beliefs that children were born into sin, meaning their will had to be broken early on. This meant that after their first year or so of life, children were treated with harsh discipline which often involved beating or whipping, before being set to work.

Colonial children were encouraged to walk as soon as possible, often forcibly, as crawling on all fours was perceived as bestial in nature. At 1 or 2 years of age, many children were placed in what were called pudding hats, hard head gear that was supposed to protect the brain from being turned to pudding while the child learned to walk (and inevitably fell).

Respect for parents was extremely important, and within the first few years of their lives, children were taught to act humbly and with the utmost respect towards their parents.

Children often received little in the way of formal education, instead being put to work in whatever business the family was in. This meant that most children began work at the age of 4 or 5. Many children did not reach this age, due to high death rates as a result of poor sanitation, disease and malnutrition.