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Make Knots Fun

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Ok, so I'm teaching my Bears knots. You know the square, slip, boline, two half-hitches and sheet bend. I want to make this fun and thought there has to be some fun games, but I can't seem to come up with any. can you guys help? I want it to be more fun than sitting in a circle tying knots.

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We do a relay race called rescue the baby. Divide the Den into two teams and give the Scouts one or more length of rope each. They'll need to join all the ropes together using sheetbends to reach the baby. Each scout on the team must add at least one rope to the string. Your better knot tiers will invaribly help the slower ones out, which is really the goal here. Have them tie one end of the joined rope off to a pole using a two-half hitch and put a bowline on the other end. Have a leader wear a baby bonnet and have a pacifier. Wear a diaper if you're really brave :) Have the Scouts standg the appropriate distance from the scouts and then have them toss the coiled rope to the baby. Winner is the first team to get their bowline to the baby. Only real problem with this race is you need a leader on each rope to judge if the knots are tied correctly before the rope is tossed.


After the first meeting you try this, you can do it at subsequent meetings, only switch it to rescue the bag of candy - put a small bag of candy with 1 Hersey's Kiss per scout on a chair that they need to rescue. Winner gets the spoils.

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We just did this. I was aghast at how inable my bears were to tie simple knots! Great hand and eye coordination for the computer games, but NO manual deterity with a piece of rope... I had to demonstrate individually to each scout at least twice to get a square knot. And I have little faith that they'll retain any of it.


They surprised me with their bowlines, though; which I thought was a more complicated knot.



Divide into teams. Teams have five minutes tie a volunteer from the other team (usually the worst knotter) to a tree. Then the team to untie their prisoner first, wins.

Safety: Have a blade handy. No tying around the neck, face or head. No tight wraps that hurt.


They had a blast, but the escaping only took about 15 seconds. I plan to make this a regular game and hope to advance their skill level by requiring the use of all the knots at least once.


The meeting finale was all the cubs tying the leader to tree. It took 10 seconds to escape (I admit to flexing in order to create slack between me and the tree), and I've been lead to believe that the photos will haunt my future. It did take me 30 minutes to untangle and untie the 300 odd feet of rope wound and woven aroung the tree...



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Work on the practical uses for the knots to show them how they actually come in handy - the bowline for rescues (especially great if you can do a one-handed demo), the square knot for joining ropes, etc.


If you're adventurous, have them tie one rope to a solid post with two half-hitches or a clove hitch, join it to another rope with a square knot, and then tie a bowline to fit around you ... then lean back and test the knots!


I'd disagree strongly with JoeBob's approach of tying people up, even with close supervision. That should be one of the rope safety and use rules that you go over at the outset. ("Rope is a tool, just like a hammer or a saw, and should not be misused. ... You wouldn't hurt someone with a hammer, and you wouldn't leave a saw out on the ground in the rain..." etc.)

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Yep, tying people up, nooses and such are a no-no. No rope around necks. Teach respectful, safe use.


Show and teach fun knots, like the Chain Knot (shortens rope and stores it without tangles), Multi Overhand Knots, and rescue throws. Neatly coil 20 feet of rope and throw.

Check http://www.activitytv.com/471-knot-impossible for some cool knotty magic.

Google for the others.

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Try and imagine yourself as a young Lad.

You have the attention span of an ant.

You are been given a lot of very specific instructions, which you are supposed to remember.

What you are being asked to do requires a lot of hand/eye coordination. - Something that you might or might not yet have mastered.

Chances are that you are going to get very frustrated and the tiny attention span that you do have will very rapidly fade.

Young Lads are blessed with wonderful imaginations.

You need to make this work for you.

Start by making rope and knots a theme for a month. Not something that you are going to beat them over the head with at a couple of meetings.

Explain to the boys how important knots and rope were. Have them imagine building the Pyramids and how much rope and knots were used. Sell them the idea that without knots and rope the sailing boats would never have been able to sail. If they had never sailed? America would never have been discovered. Sailors still use rope (OK Line!) Cowboys use rope,guys who climb mountains use rope.

Rope and knots were one of the first tools that man had.


Give each boy his own rope or better yet two ropes.

Use good quality rope.

Start by having them whip the ends (If you decide to use synthetic rope? Burn and whip.) A simple whipping or better yet a West Country Whipping is a good way to get started.

Use colored Sharpies to mark each boy's ropes. (Keep them handy they can help the boys remember which end goes where??)

Don't go wild!

Keep new knots down to no more than one or two a week.

Go over knots from the previous week, but find ways of kicking it up a notch! Use bandages, or use licorice string.

(I tried spaghetti, we were indoors and it made a big mess! It might be better out-doors, but it doesn't hold very good -I'm thinking that a flat pasta like Fettucini might hold better.)

Try and find ways of using the knot for the purpose that it was intended for. Explain the history of the knot.

A timber hitch can be used for pulling a log, but it was also the knot that the English Archers used to tie their long bows with.

You might also want to give the boys a small piece of rope to carry in their pockets, telling them that it is their "Pet Rope".

Some knots are just fun to mess around with.

I still enjoy playing with the Fisherman's Knot, the Fireman's Chair Knot and the Sheepshank.

If you have a very large rope (The kind used for a tug of war.) You might want to have the Den try and tie a Clove Hitch around a very large tree.

I have found that a good way for Scouts to get it! Is by me standing behind them and having them tell my hands where to go and what to do. It looks like I'm breaking anything that was ever written on YP but I don't care.


Be sure that who ever is instructing the Scouts is someone who really likes kids and has lots of patience.

I have seen adults who when trying to teach a Lad a knot get very frustrated. Don't ever allow this to happen.

You are an Imagineer - Let your imagination go wild.

Tie Bowlines and toss loops, teach them how to tie one with one hand and have races. Let them explore the purchase that a Haymaker's Hitch can give.

If you can plant the seed now? In twenty years or so when they become Scouter's? They will pass on their love of knots to the next group of Scouts.


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A few additional thoughts...


- Develop a quick, funny "patter" down for your initial demonstrations, aimed at keeping their attention. They'll want to get to the hands-on stuff quickly, and don't like to pay attention to someone just talking. Keep it fun and active. Practice a couple times in front of a mirror.


- Have a lot of patience, and be prepared to work with each Cub several times on each knot. If you can get one adult per Cub to help them, that will dramatically improve their chances of picking it up quickly. With just one instructor standing up at the front of the room or the head of the picnic table, there will be a disconnect between the Cubs looking up at you and looking back down at their knots, and they'll lose their place. Extra adults or Boy Scouts can really help.


- Knot-tying requires hand-and-eye coordination, to be sure, but it also is a skill that requires three-dimensional thinking, which video games definitely don't teach and which younger kids often have problems with. Patience is the key.

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I knew that boxers would be bunched by the dominance aspect of 'Prisoner'. But the topic is 'Making Knots Fun'. My cubs had FUN!


ShortRidge: Thanks for the suggestion Tree/Square Knot/Bowline. I like it. But I must object to you're using a clove hitch tie to the tree. The odds are 66% against it holding. If pulled from the correct side of tree (A), a clove hitch will hold. If pulled straight out from the tree (B), it will weaken and fail. Pulling from the opposite side of A is how you UNtie a clove hitch. Cubs butts on the ground... Use 2 1/2 hitches.




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In teaching knots to Cubs, don't forget to include the parent/partners. Often, they don't know a bowline from a shoelace either.

I teach at CSDC and usually end up on my back on the picnic table, tying the knot up in the air. That way, my right hand is on the same side as the Cubs right hand. If I FACE them, they have to transpose my right hand (on their left) to their right hand (assuming they know R from L!).

I like Eamons idea of "robotic hands", having the boy tell one how to tie the knot. I could see a game made out of this, say, one boy is blindfolded, and the other boy tells the first how to tie the knot, if he doesn't know already!

Knot relay:: Scouts stand in a line, side by side. Each Scout has a length of rope, about 4 feet long. On start, each Scout ties his rope to his nieghbor's with a particular knot, called out by the Leader. Object is to be the first Den/Patrol to get all their ropes together to do a given task: Rescue the Cubmaster, lasso a box, throw rope over a limb and "bear rope" a bag of "food", etc.

Joining knots:: Square, two bowlines, two tautlines, two two halfhitches, sheetbend.

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Great Ideas Guys! Thanks. I started teaching them a few knots last week and hope to do some relay thing this weekend. I like the idea of the boys tying small ropes together to make a long one and rescue the baby/candy/den leader!


I was also hoping to put together some type of relay where I divide the boys into two teams and each member must run up to a rope suspended between two trees, tie a given knot then return for the next guy to run tie his knot. Fastest time correct wins? What cha think about that one?

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Two ropes of different colors work best.


Years ago I saw a den with ropes that were two colors, the den leader acquired some clothes line rope, dyed half of it red. This helped the kids see the intracties of the knot.


When I was a DL we did this and it worked out OK.



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