Lesson 4: Daily Life in the Colonies


Activity 1: Colonial Goods

Think about all of the things that you need in your daily life — fresh water, food, clothing, shelter, fuel for heat, transportation, household furnishings, and the things you need for work, education, and entertainment. In colonial America, many of those things would be made within the household or purchased from local businesses. (See page 73 in Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself! for a partial list of trades that might have been common in a colonial town.) What couldn't be made in the home or bought from a tradesman would have to be purchased from a merchant's shop.
The merchant might have obtained some goods from other colonies but would have had to import many goods, especially luxury items, from England.

On the "Colonial Goods" activity page, think through how you might obtain necessary items for a colonial household.
Student Activity Page
In this activity, your child will consider how she might obtain various goods if she lived in colonial times. An answer key for the activity page has been provided.

Answer key:

Wool for clothing — Grown/Made at Home
Animal pelts — Traded with Native People
Hosiery — Bought at a Shop (Imported from England)
A mattress — Grown/Made at Home
Fine lace — Bought at a Shop (Imported from England)
Tea — Bought at a Shop (Imported from England)
Rice — Grown/Made at Home (if in a southern colony) or Bought at a Shop (Imported from Another Colony)
Fresh vegetables — Grown/Made at Home
Furniture — Made at Home or Bought from a Local Craftsman (esp. if in a northern colony) or Bought at a Shop (Imported from Another Colony)
Horseshoes for your horse — Bought from a Local Craftsman
Shoes for your family — Bought from a Local Craftsman

Activity 2: Props or Costume for Your Final Project

Materials: Great Colonial Projects You Can Build Yourself! by Kris Bordessa
For your final project, you will be giving a "living history" performance in which you will pretend to be a person living in colonial times. If you would like, your performance can include a colonial costume, or you can wear 21st century clothing and show your audience props representing life in colonial America. You will choose either a colonist from any colony or a soldier returning home from the Revolution. You might decide to be the wife of a minister in Connecticut, the son of a tobacco farmer in Virginia, a Quaker in Pennsylvania, a woman who dressed as a man to fight in the revolution, or a Boston man who signed up for the militia after being angered by the presence of British soldiers in his home community. In this activity, you will use the projects listed in Chapters 3 and 4 of Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself! to create either a costume (Option 1) or props (Option 2) that you could use for your performance.
In this activity, your child will create a costume or colonial-era props for her final project, a living history performance about life in colonial America. Please read over the instructions and materials list for each project in the book and decide which projects will be most suitable for your child and whether you will need to be available to provide support or ensure safety. Some projects, like candle-making, require adult supervision, so be available to assist your child.

Option 1: Colonial Costumes

If you think you would like to wear a costume for your final project, work with a parent to determine which of the choices below will work best for the materials you have available, your skills, and your interests, and then create one or more pieces of a colonial costume for your final project:
  • Colonial-style pocket (page 52)
  • Tricorn hat (pages 54-55)
  • Mobcap (page 56)
  • Cuffs (page 57)
  • Fan (page 58)
If you want to make a more elaborate costume, work with a parent to find a sewing pattern or instructions for costume making. Be creative and have fun!
Web Link
In this option, your child will create parts of a costume that she can use in her final project.

Option 2: Colonial Props

In this option, you'll create props that you can use to show your audience specific details about colonial life. Choose one of the following projects listed in Chapter 3. Work with a parent to determine which projects are most appropriate for the materials you have available and your skills and interests. Some activities may require parental assistance — with a parent, read over the instructions for the activity you plan to do and make sure that a parent is available to assist you if the instructions indicate that parental guidance is required:
  • Miniature wattle-and-daub house (page 28)
  • Bricks (page 29)
  • Straw tick (page 30)
  • Dipped candles (page 32)
  • Candle holder (page 33)
  • Silhouette (page 35)
  • Broom (page 37)
  • Braided rug (page 39)
In this option, your child will create a prop for her final project on colonial life. Some of these projects, like candle making, require parental assistance and others may require either a second person to help or unusual materials, so be sure to work closely with your child to choose an appropriate project. Read over the instructions with her carefully and be available to provide assistance and supervision.