The biggest tragedy for Viking children would have been that they didn’t have to go to school. Yeah, right. The printing press wasn’t invented for another five hundred years and so there were no books, other than those hand scribed by the monks in monasteries, and their dads were too busy burning those in raids. Instead, from age five, children spent their time helping to keep the farms running and learning the skills they’d need as adults, usually from their parents. Boy, I bet that was fun. Not.
Viking girls stayed home with their mothers and grandmothers and learnt how to weave cloth and make clothes and also cook and tend animals and sick people as well as run farms, while texting their friends. With the men away a lot of the time raiding and exploring, and making general nuisances of themselves in other countries, keeping the farm running was vital work. Everyone in an extended family had to share dark, smoky, one-room huts called Longhouses. This included the the farm animals, especially in the harsh winters. Unlike today with their own rooms, girls had no privacy at all.
If a girl wanted to, she could be taught how to handle a sword and fight like a warrior. The Norse sagas often mention female Viking warriors. One of the most famous was Freydis, the sister-in-law of Lief Eriksson, who also travelled to America with him.
At age ten, Viking boys were usually sent away to learn the ways of the warriors and how to fight with swords, spears and battle-axes. Boys were also taught shipbuilding as all communities owned at least one long, sleek ship called a drakkar. They were also taught how to navigate ships using the stars and coastal landmarks. Some of them also became blacksmiths and tool makers and those skilled enough became artisans and made stylish and valuable jewellery.
In spite of the long hours children worked, they still found time to play games. Viking archaeological sites have uncovered model drakkars, chess pieces, doll like figurines, accurate toy wooden swords, wooden animals, musical instruments and bone ice-skates.
By age fifteen most Viking children were married, usually with their partner being chosen for them by their parents. And unlike English society where women lost all rights on marriage, all the property a woman brought with her into the marriage continued to be her personal belongings. It was inherited by her children after her death.
The average age of dying was about half it is these days, mostly due to the harsh conditions Viking lived with, not to mention all the dangerous battles the Vikings kept picking with their enemies and polar bears.