Life & Culture of Jamaica Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

What do you know about Jamaica? In this lesson, you'll learn about the origins of the country, the languages spoken there, and some cultural traditions like the Junkanoo parade.

Where is Jamaica?

Out in the Caribbean Sea, just south of Cuba, you can find the island of Jamaica. What's on this island? Lush fruit trees like avocado and banana and over 280 types of birds—all colorful and gorgeous. But behind all of Jamaica's beauty is a painful history of European occupation, leading to poverty in Jamaica today.

Jamaica is in the Caribbean Sea

Beginnings of Jamaica

The first people living in Jamaica were the Taino people. In 1492, The Spanish colonized Jamaica, which means they took control of the people and land, and made the Tainos slaves. When the Spanish first began to move to Jamaica, they also brought slaves from Africa. They had control for about 150 years before the British took over. In 1962, Jamaica finally won their right to govern themselves.

In addition to the Taino people, some of the first people to live in Jamaica were the Irish, who came as indentured servants. An indentured servant is someone who works for free in exchange for something else. In this case, the Irish came to a new country and worked for free. Until they finished their work, they lived like slaves. People came from China and India under similar conditions, to work at starting sugar plantations, which the British made a lot of money from.

Today, the Jamaican population is made up of descendants with African, European, Taino, Chinese, and Indian ancestry, many of which live in poverty. Some people wish the British would take over again, believing that it might help the poverty and violence in Jamaica.


Jamaican Standard English is the official language of Jamaica, but if you go there, it might not sound like the English you're used to. It is called Jamaican Patois, or Patwa, and it is a combination of English and other African languages. You might hear this language mostly out in the countryside, but it is becoming more common in the cities, too.


Family is extremely important in Jamaica. Many extended families, including cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are very close and spend a lot of time together—imagine having all your aunts, uncles, and cousins around while you grow up!

For Jamaicans, Christmas is a two-day holiday. Families will attend church services, go to a market filled with toys, food, and sweet desserts, and spend time with family cooking up huge meals. Christmas is so important in Jamaica, that many jobs will give people the entire week off!

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