Colonial Family Life


Diana Milk

History 472-Colonial & Pioneer History






The colonial family in the early 1700s was usually large, often consisting of the parents and 7-8 children.  They all worked hard to keep the family going.  If they did not have a farm to tend to then they helped in the family business and helped in everyday chores.  There was a distinctive way of dress, the home, the roles of men and women, the colonial childhood and their religion.  There were many different groups and kinds of people; this is to help you get a general idea of what life was like in the colonial era.




Get into groups of 2-3 and read all materials given to you.  There may be more hyperlinks in the ones that I have already given you, so the more you read the more you will know.  After completing your Internet research, answer all of the questions about colonial family life.


But first here is a little game to get everyone going.  Follow a typical colonial family.  Get ready, because you are about to become a history detective, Have fun!

A Colonial Family and Community   



Colonial Homes and Furniture



Colonial homes were only as nice as people could afford.  The home was one of the places that showed the family’s success.  If you had the money you could decorate your home with fancy tables, desks, and chairs.  If you were a modest worker or farmer you would have dressers and barrels to sit upon. Colonial and Homes Furniture  


1.  What did the early colonists have to use for houses?

2.  What was the stuffing for mattresses?

3.  If you were wealthy what one item would you have for furniture?


Colonial Clothing


Children’s clothing was kept simple, both boys and girls wore the same thing until they were about six years old.  After that time they would wear similar clothes as of their mother and father.   Colonial Clothing


1.  Name three of the articles of clothing that the women would have worn, and tell  what part of the body they belong on.

2.  What colors where most common for the men to wear?

3.  How could you tell if a colonial child was a boy or a girl?


The Farm


Many families’ sustenance farmed and grew enough for the families.  Some were quite successful as real farming for money and profit.  The “man of the house”  was responsible for the farm.  Boys were the main helpers and, if needed, other members of the family helped too.  Agriculture


1.  The European way of agriculture was not well suited for the New World, what group taught them improved farming techniques?

2.  The South produced cash crops for export, what were they?

3.  What system was developed, thanks to the production if cotton and tobacco?



The Roles of Men and Women


The role of a colonial woman was to be a wife, mother, and housekeeper.  These tasks took most of the day. And, if that weren’t enough, she also had to be responsible for the children’s schooling.   Women in Colonial America


The role of a colonial man was to work hard and provide for his family’s material needs.  They were the ones that actually got to go out of the house and could choose a profession. Colonial Occupations


1.  What aspect of being a woman in the colonial era do you least like? Why.

2.  What was a “Batman”, and what colonial occupation would you like to have?


Colonial Childhood



Colonial children had a difficult life.  The older children helped care for the younger ones.  The girls helped their mothers in the home while the boys helped their fathers in outside chores.  The girls were taught to be mothers, wives, and caretakers.  The boys were taught to work in the field or the family business, or if they could find someone to take them in boys went and apprenticed with someone, like a blacksmith. They also had and an education.  There was time to play; here are some games that they would play.  Children in Colonial times


1.  Why was the colonial childhood so tough?

2.  What games mentioned in the site sound like the ones you used to play?

3.  At what age did women usually get married and men became taxpayers?


Religion in the Colonies



Many people came to the colonies to escape religion persecution.  Many different denominations existed in both the North and the South.  Religious services were important to the colonists. Most people made a point to attend church.  In New England people used the church not only for religious services, but also for a meeting place. 


The Church of England in Early America

Middle Colonies Religion

Religion and the Church

The Episcopal Church


1.  The New England colonies were settled by followers of what religion?

2.  Who was the founder of the Church of England? What is it known as today?

3.  In New Jersey what was the most popular faith?


So now that you have answered the questions do you know exactly where all the thirteen colonies are located?  Here is a map for you to fill out.




Colonial family life was a lot different than it is now.  The roles of the family members, chores, and clothing were very different. So many things have changed since the colonial era; I hope this gives you a better understanding of what life was like that long ago.


Other Resources and Readings


Colonial America 1600-1775, K12 Resources

Maps of Colonial America

Colonial Williamsburg

Life in Colonial America


Good job! Now you are done, one last thing, print this out so that you can be graded. - how you will be graded