Men and women
Most Viking men were all-round handymen, but some had special skills. There were boat-builders, for example and potters, leather-workers and smiths. Most Viking men knew how to handle a boat. And most could fight if they had to, to protect the family or to support their chieftain.
Women baked bread. They did spinning and weaving to turn sheep wool into cloth. They looked after the children, made the family's clothes and cooked the two meals a day most families ate. On the farm, women milked the cows and made cheese.
Babies were given little Thor's-hammer charms, to protect them from evil spirits and sickness. A boy usually took his father's name too - so Eric, son of Karl, became Eric Karlsson. Girls often took the same name as their mother or grandmother.
Viking children did not go to school. They helped their parents at work, and learned Viking history, religion and law from spoken stories and songs, not from books. By 15 or 16 they were adult. It was common for a girl's father to choose her husband.
Roving and trading
A young Viking man might go off on a trading voyage, or become a raider. He hoped to come home rich so he could buy a farm. Vikings met at markets, like the markets at Hedeby in Denmark and Jorvik in England. They traded by exchanging goods (a wolf skin for a pair of shoes, perhaps) but also used gold and silver coins. Traders valued coins by weight, and carried small folding scales to weigh a customer's coins.
Not everyone was free to come and go as he or she liked. Some people were slaves or 'thralls'. Slaves did the hardest, dirtiest jobs. People could be born slaves. The child of a slave mother and father was a slave too, but the child of a slave mother and a free father was free. Many slaves were people captured in a Viking raid. Viking traders sold slaves in markets, but slave-trading in England was stopped in 1102.
Toys and Pastimes
Viking men enjoyed swimming, wrestling and horse racing. In winter, people skated on frozen rivers, and used skis over the snow. A favourite board game was hnefatafl ('king's table'). Players moved pieces around a board, like in draughts or chess. There were lots of versions of this game.
Most children's toys were home-made - whistles made from leg bones of geese, for instance. Children had wooden dolls, played football, and sailed model boats. Pig bones found at Viking sites might be toy 'hummers' - the bones were threaded on a twisted cord which you pulled to make a humming noise.