• Imagining History

Pirate Code of Conduct - Guide & Craft Activity for Kids

Updated: May 4

Despite their reputation for being lawless rulebreakers, pirates would always have a code of conduct aboard their ships. "But who would be mad enough to enforce strict rules on a bunch of rulebreakers?!" I hear you cry. Find out below:



The Pirate Code of Conduct:

What was it? A bunch of rules to stop any arguments and fights from breaking out amongst the pirate crew


Who wrote the rules? Pirate Captain Bartholemew Roberts, known as "Black Bart"

What were the rules about? They stopped the crew from gambling, bringing women or children on board, or fighting with each other. There were also rules for how to split the treasure they found so everyone got a fair share. There was even a rule on when to go to bed (8pm if you were wondering! After all, the early pirate catches the merchant ship.)

What happened if you broke the rules? You would be marooned or killed! Those pirates didn't mess around! Hopefully they'd count down from five first, then, and only then, would they resort to such harsh punishments.



The Code:

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.


Create your own Pirate Code of Conduct on Aged Paper:


You Will Need:


Thick A4 Paper

Pencil

Ruler

Rubber

Brown Marker or Fine Felt Tip - We used a Manuscript Italic Marker 1.4mm in brown

Tea Bags

Water

Container (such as a Baking Dish)

Paint Brush

Kitchen Roll

Hair Dryer (Optional)

Extra Long Matches or a Candle (Optional) - We used Bryant & May Extra Long Safety Matches


Create Your Pirate Rules:


Step 1 - Make Up Your Own Pirate Rules


Firstly, create your own rules for the crew of 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 a time to go to bed.


Consider how you want your crew to split the pirate booty, will you do a fair split or keep more for yourself and risk a mutiny?


Don't forget to detail what will happen to any crew member who breaks these rules. Take a look at our list of pirate punishments for some inspiration.


Step 2 - Write Them Down

Once you have decided on some rules, write them out neatly on a thick A4 sheet of paper (or thin card) using a brown marker or fine tipped felt tip.


We used a ruler and pencil to draw writing guidelines on the paper beforehand to keep it neat. Once we had written out our pirate rules, we rubbed out the pencil marks with a rubber.


Don't forget to sign the document with your pirate captain name at the bottom. Add any extra details you would like, such as a picture of your pirate flag or the Jolly Roger.



Ageing Paper:


Step 3 - Scrunch and Tear

Next, to help your rules look like they spent decades on a ship at sea, you need to make your piece of paper look like it's really old, a bit like an old piece of parchment from back in the "Golden Age" of Pirates.


First, scrunch up your paper into a ball then gently flatten it out again making sure not to rip it too much. You can do this a couple of times. The more creases your paper has, the more weathered it will look.


Next, add a few small tears around the edges of the paper and tear the corners off. Be careful not to tear off any bits of paper with writing on them.


Step 4 - Stain with Tea

Add a few tea bags into a mug of water and leave them to brew for a minute or two.


Lay your paper flat into a container such as a baking dish or baking tray. Once the tea has turned a dark brown colour, pour some of it over your paper. You don't need too much water - just enough to spread across your paper, covering it all the way to the corners. Use a brush to spread the water around your paper.


Take one of the wet tea bags from the mug and rub it onto different sections of the paper. This will add darker spots of colour. If your teabag rips, don't worry! The tea grains will add extra "dirt" to the finished look.


Step 5 - More Tearing


Now that the paper is wet, you can easily add tears and marks into the centre of your paper. Using your fingernail, gently tear a few small holes in your paper. Make sure to tear any part of the paper with writing on it.


Step 6 - Dry It Out

VERY gently, remove your paper from the container. The paper may be flimsy now it is wet, so go slow. Place it on a dry surface and pat it down with kitchen roll to remove excess liquid.


Leave the paper for a few hours to dry completely. Alternatively, if your pirate crew are an impatient bunch like ours, dry it out with a hair dryer.


Step 7 - Burn The Edges (Optional)

CAUTION: An adult should ALWAYS be present when using matches or candles.


Light a match or candle and carefully move the flame along the edge of the paper. This will singe the edges and give it a burnt look.


Some safety tips here:

  • Keep the match moving at all times so the paper doesn't catch on fire.

  • We recommend doing this activity over a sink of water so anything that you need to drop can fall and immediately be doused by the water.

  • If the paper does begin to catch fire, blow it out quickly. Dip this edge in water if the paper continues to singe afterwards.

  • If the paper catches fire and you cannot blow it out, immediately drop it into the sink of water.

  • Always move the match in the direction away from where you are holding the paper.

  • Always keep an eye on the match as it burns down. Keep your fingers away from the flame and remember to give yourself plenty of time to blow it out or drop it into the water.


Finished!

Your Pirate Code of Conduct is complete. Why not have a go at ageing paper for other activities too? Treasure maps work well for Keystage 1 children.

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Here are some of the craft materials we used to create our Pirate Code of Conduct:











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