Inca Research Project

By: Andrew R.

What was daily life like for Inca children and how did the family structure and structure of the Inca civilization affect their lives?

Daily Life of an Inca Child

The daily life of an Inca child was similar to my life in some ways but their lives were much more difficult than my life is. From infancy to about two months old, Inca babies were rocked in a cradle and breast fed milk from their mothers. At this age their heads were wrapped to make them narrower. Children who were beginning to walk were put in the care of the older children. The families often had pets. The girls between five and nine years old did jobs around the house, gathered herbs, helped make maize spirits or took care of the babies. Poma states, “When they were not playing for their own amusements, they were used to look after the younger children or rock the cradles of the newborn”. At five years old, boys learned to hunt birds with a sling, which was an Inca game and from nine to twelve years old, they learned to trap small birds, watch flocks, weave, and carry wood. Only boys of the elites went to school. Girls between nine and twelve years old picked wildflowers for dying cloth and gathered herbs which were dried. The girls usually wore their hair short at this age. Boys and girls between 12 and 18 were employed in personal service for the ruler (boys only) or took care of grandparents and parents doing jobs such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of cattle (girls only). 18 year olds were expected to do half the labor of an adult and carry official letters.


Citation: Poma, Guaman. "Nueva Coronica y Buen Gobierno." Part of Letter to a king . 1400. Rpt. inYale Peabody Museum. Ed. Christopher Dilke. , . . http://peabody.yale.edu/sites/default/files/documents/education/MP%20Social%20Studies%20curriculum.pdf

Family Structure

Family structure was important to the daily life of Inca children because they all had jobs and had to work to meet their needs. Nelson states, “One of the most important aspects of the Inca daily life was the ayllu.” Once a child was born into an ayllu, they remained part of that ayllu their whole life. The ayllu was the Inca name given to a group of families working a big part of land together. They shared their belongings like one big family. Only wealthy Inca children went to school and the pheasant kids had to work from the time they were young. Inca girls got married by the age of 12. The children learned skills that would lead them to their job in life. They were not very protected or watched by their parents while growing up, as they were left alone almost the whole day. The only thing the Inca mothers did to take care of them was feed and clean them. Pheasant families had to work all the time except when there were religious festivals or when they were sleeping. The pheasant men had to work as farmers on government land, while the women worked at home as they took care of their children, cooked and made clothes. Noble families had easier lives working for the government. Incas lived in houses that were made of clay bricks with thatched roofs. There were not many things in the homes, just baskets, mats to sleep on and usually a wood stove. The Inca men usually wore tunics and the women wore dresses. In the winter, they would wear capes or ponchos to keep them warm. The Incas ate corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, duck and fish.


Citation: Nelson, Ken. “Inca Empire for Kids: Daily Life." Ducksters. Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI), Aug. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. < http://www.ducksters.com/history/inca/daily_life.php >.

A Child's Place in the Inca Civilization

The Inca civilization saw children based only on what they were capable of doing. The Inca Empire was so big it was divided into different ethnic groups and classes. SpearthrowerOwl states, “These classes were based on the economic productivity and social consequence.” From groups like 25 to 50 year olds being the most productive to babies being the least productive, with a wide variety of other groups in between. Children, not adults, were often sacrificed to their “gods”. This shows that the Incas valued more productive people over less productive people, so they sacrificed the least productive. The surviving children started acquiring skills at the age of five so they would become more valued in Inca society.


The Inca children’s daily lives were much stranger than mine. Children were often beat by their parents. The Inca children were given someone to marry and the girls had to keep their hair short and feet bare. There was a ceremony where all the children got their hair cut short and got named, at the age of two. Only the boys of “noble blood” went to a school in Cuzco, where they learned the official language of Inca, which is called Quechua. SpearthrowerOwl states, “In order to prepare the boys for war, and the girls for married life, both were kept away from fatty, sugary or greasy food, honey, vinegar, hot condiments and beer.” The prettiest girls were taken at the young age of 10, to be taught so they could become priestesses or given as trophy wives to men that were not married yet.


Citation: SpearthrowerOwl. "What was life like for Inca children?." Observation Deck. 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2015. <http://observationdeck.kinja.com/what-was-life-like-for-inca-children-1512388558>.