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Vikings Lesson for Kids: Facts & History

Instructor: Claire DeSaussure

Claire has worked in behavioral programs at the Elementary Level and has an MLS with a focus on Creative Writing.

We think of Vikings as the angry warriors of legend. Famed for burning villages and killing the residents, these people have a reputation for violence. But while the Vikings did invade and conquer, there are probably a lot of things about the Vikings you don't know.

Who Were the Vikings?

History books, novels and movies have taught us that Vikings were fierce sea-faring fighting men with horns on their helmets and blonde braided beards. They raided settlements for supplies and took people to be slaves. Much of this is true, but the Vikings did a lot more than that.

Farmers

The Vikings lived a long time ago, from the 9th to the 11th century. Vikings were mostly famers. For most of the year, these men and women raised pigs and sheep and grew oats and barley.

The Vikings were from Scandinavia, a group of countries in northern Europe that includes Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. These countries have weather that is cold and rainy. Farming is not easy in these countries, because the ground is rocky and mountainous, and the time when crops can grow is short.

Seafarers and Invaders

Vikings were very good at navigation, or finding their way around. They traveled the oceans a lot and invented a device that helped them know where to go by using the sun. They also invented a boat called a longboat or longship. These speedy boats allowed them to travel hundreds of miles to trade wool, fish and walrus tusks with other groups of people.

When the crops didn't grow well enough to feed their population, the Vikings used their long ships to invade other parts of Europe, including what is now Ireland, England, Germany and some parts of France. The invasions were often bloody, with local people taken as slaves. This is probably how the Vikings got their fearsome reputation.

The Vikings colonized many of these places, meaning they took over governments and brought the people their language and customs, changing their culture forever. In fact, we have the Vikings, in part, to thank for the English language: the words angry, die, root, skill, husband, freckle, and Thursday, to name a few, come from the Vikings!

A model of a Viking longboat
Model of a Viking Longboat

They Didn't Wear Helmets with Horns

Vikings didn't wear helmets with horns on them at all! Their helmets were simply meant to protect their heads during battle. Historians think that as the tales were told about these people, artists who drew pictures for the stories added horns to make them seem scarier.

Vikings Cared About Fashion

Viking men had a sense of style. They thought that blonde hair was better. Many of them used a dye to lighten the color of their hair and beards. The dye also helped kill those itchy head lice! Vikings wore their hair in different styles. Most men had long hair, but they tied it back for battle.

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