Plymouth Colony Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Crystal Ladwig
Many stories about the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock are just that: stories--real history with some fiction mixed in. In this lesson, we'll learn about the Plymouth Colony and how it was really formed.

What Is the Plymouth Colony?

The founders of the Plymouth Colony, what we now call Plymouth, Massachusetts, originally came from England. A group of like-minded families joined together to find a place to practice their Puritan religion in a way they believed was right. They weren't free to do that in England.

So, they came to the New World (the Americas), right? Not exactly. First, they went to the Netherlands, but that didn't quite work out. So the Puritans got permission from the king to travel to the New World to start a new colony for England. The puritans and other settlers set sail aboard the Mayflower. 

Model of the Mayflower
Model of the Mayflower

Landing at Plymouth Rock

The ocean voyage wasn't easy. Men, women, and children all lived together in a very small space. Many became very sick and died. After 65 days at sea, they finally landed on Plymouth Rock (the famous rock known to mark the landing spot of the Mayflower), right? Nope. The historical record of the rock doesn't start until over 100 years after Plymouth was founded.

In reality, a scouting party explored the shores of this new land until they found a location suitable for building a settlement, farming, and hunting. Even after they found a good spot, families still lived on the Mayflower for several more months until shelters were built. This was a hard thing to do. Of the 102 people who had started this voyage, many had died or become too sick to work.

Mayflower Compact

The Plymouth Colony is important to United States history for two primary reasons. One is that it was one of the first permanent English colonies in the new world.

Second was the creation of the Mayflower Compact. The Puritans and other colonists of Plymouth realized they needed structure and organization to make fair laws. The Mayflower Compact, signed by the men of Plymouth Colony, acknowledged the authority of King James and organized a government with the authority to make decisions and laws for the good of the entire colony. 

Signing of the Mayflower Compact
Signing of the Mayflower Compact

Early Plymouth Life

Since the people aboard the Mayflower came to create a new colony, they had to become self-sufficient (taking care of themselves). Each family (including children) had to work hard to build their community, hunt food, and grow crops. But the climate in Plymouth Colony was different from what they were used to in England. The seeds they brought didn't always grow well. Life was hard. In addition to farming, they had to protect the colony from Native Americans. 

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