• Imagining History

Aboard a Pirate Ship - Craft Activities

Updated: May 19


The word "pirate" refers to any person who attacks and robs ships at sea. Some of the earliest pirates existed all the way back in Ancient Greece where piracy was considered a noble profession. And some of the most famous pirates from history were the Vikings (whose name literally translates as "pirate" or "raider").


But on seeing the word "pirate", most people will think about the "Golden Age" of Piracy (from 1650 to 1720), where pirates sailed in masted ships, flying a flag adorned with a skull & cross bones, whilst likely wearing a tri-corner hat and an eye-patch, with a peg-leg or a hook to replace a missing limb.


Here, you'll find a number of fun crafts and activities for kids to learn what life was like aboard a pirate ship in the "Golden Age" of piracy.



The Pirate Ship


Pirates often stole their ships rather than buying them. This was because piracy was illegal and if they got caught their ship would be taken off them (what a waste of money!). But they would adapt any ship they stole to better fit their pirating needs, such as clearing space for all the crew (pirate ships were more heavily manned than other ships) and reinforcing the decks to hold the heavy cannons.


Pirates often sailed in ships called Sloops or Frigates. These ships were made primarily out of wood with masts and square sails. Frigates were the larger of the two. Frigates had three masts and could hold up to 40 mounted guns and house up to 200 crewmembers. They were surprisingly light and agile for their size. This was ideal for a crew of pirates who often targeted slower and less agile ships, such as merchant ships, to raid. A fast ship was also essential for the pirates to outrun any large warships, because Sloops and Frigates didn't stand a chance against such powerful ships in battle.


Activity:

Create your own pirate ship from a recycled milk carton using this guide from Fave Crafts. Make sure to add all of the features of a good pirate ship, such as sails made from toilet roll tubes and and even an egg carton crow's nest at the top of the mast to keep look out.


Plus this ship actually floats! So you can pop your pirate ship in water and sail the seven seas.


Find full details on how to create your milk carton pirate ship here.


Don't forget to call your pirate ship a powerful and intimidating name to scare your enemies!



The Jolly Roger


Now you have your pirate ship, it is important to fly the pirate flag.


All ships display a flag (or an "ensign") to enable other ships to identify who they are, what country they are from or where they are sailing too. A pirate would use their flag to try to intimidate their enemies. After all, why bother fighting (at the risk of being injured or killed) when you can just scare your victims into surrendering and handing over their treasure without having to do anything at all. So they decorated their flags with skeletons and weapons to make them as terrifying as possible.


The most well known pirate flag is called the Jolly Roger. This is a black flag adorned with a skull and crossed bones. But not all pirates used this flag. Some pirates tricked their enemies by flying a friendly flag so they could sneak up on them. Some of the most infamous pirate captains designed their own flags so they could be recognised across the seven seas. Blackbeard's flag showed a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear to show his lack of mercy. Rackham's flag was similar to the Jolly Roger but with crossed cutlasses instead of crossed bones to show he was always in the mood to fight. Moody's flag was red with a winged hourglass indicating that it was only a matter of time before he closed in on his enemies.


Activity:


Design your own pirate flag to fly on your ship.


Remember to try to scare your enemies with your design. You could use intense colours like black and red, images to strike fear in your enemies such as weapons and skeletons or images showing how powerful you are such as crowns or muscles.


Or if you want to try something different, you could try to trick your enemies with a friendly looking flag.


Download a free pirate flag printable to create your design at Little Owl Resources.



Pirate Code of Conduct


Despite their reputation for being lawless rulebreakers, pirates would always have a code of conduct aboard their ships. This would stop the pirates from fighting amongst themselves. The rules set out by pirate captain Bartholemew Roberts included:


  • All members of the crew get to vote to make a decision on important matters

  • Anyone who robs from another crew member will be punished by marooning

  • No gambling is allowed

  • The lights are to be put out at 8pm for everyone to go to bed

  • Every crew member must keep his own weapons clean

  • No women or children allowed on board the ship. Any crew member bringing a woman or child on board (even in disguise) will be killed

  • Any crew member who cowardly abandons the ship in times of battle will be punished with death or marooning

  • No punching or kicking each other whilst on board the ship

  • Any crew member who loses a limb or is wounded will be given extra money

  • All basic crew members get an equal share of any treasure the crew gain. More important crew members (such as the captain) get double the amount that the basic crew members receive.


Activity:


Create your own Pirate Code of Conduct.


Firstly, create your own rules for the crew upon your pirate ship. Think about what you want your crew to do while on board the ship, such as doing chores, stopping fights with other crew members or setting time to go to bed. Consider how you want your crew to split the pirate booty, will you do a fair split or risk a mutiny? Don't forget to detail what will happen to any crew member who breaks these rules. Once you have decided on some rules, write them out neatly on a sheet of paper.


Next, make your piece of paper look like it's really old. You can do this by crumpling it, staining it with tea or coffee and even getting an adult to help you make burn marks on it. This will make your Code of Conduct look like an old piece of parchment from back in the "Golden Age" of Pirates.


Find full details on how to age your paper at Home Schooling Ideas.


The web links in this article have been included for reference only and are in no way affiliated with Imagining History. Imagining History has no control over what content is included on these web links so discretion is advised.

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