Knots are incredibly commonplace in our lives. We make use of knots all the time! When we blow up balloons for a party, we tie the ends off with an overhand knot to stop the air from leaking out. When we put on our shoes to get ready for work or school, we already make use of two types of knots to do up our shoelaces. Even on an outing to the park, we use knots to tie kite strings and seal up plastic bags of unfinished picnic food. Knots are vital for survival as well. Square knots or reef knots aid in securing bandages over a wound while bowline knots are useful for anchoring tarps to build a shelter. They also play important roles in hunting for food and creating tools. So it should not be surprising that knot-tying is an essential skill everyone should learn.
Children can benefit from being taught knot-tying even from a young age. Through figuring out the way the rope twists and turns, they are being provided opportunities to problem solve. “How do I tie this knot?” and “How can I untie it?” are questions they will ask themselves as they attempt to mimic what they see. This focuses their attention and trains their critical thinking to find a solution. As their newly learnt skills start to bleed into their play, some may also begin testing their creativity to tie “a knot that can hold the most weight” or experiment with building mini forts in the living room.
Of course, knot-tying also aids in cultivating many other fundamental skills like reading, writing and spelling. It improves a child’s motor skills by challenging their eye-hand coordination as they work the rope according to visual instructions. When they tug and pull at the ropes, they develop strength in their arms and shoulders, as well as in the small muscles of their hands. This plays an important role in training their grip, which benefits them in their later years. For example, the pincer grasp they use to hold the rope firmly sets them on the path to establish a proper pencil grip.
Introducing knot-tying to children as young as three years also aids in the achievement of asymmetrical bilateral integration. It is a phase in a child’s development where they begin learning to utilise both halves of their body to achieve a common outcome, through executing varied and independent tasks. This development is a vital foundation for children to engage in both physical and academic activities when they are older.
At Outdoor School Singapore, we teach our young explorers simple and useful knots to begin their learning. We introduce them to overhand knots, reed knots, clove hitch and simple lashing through fun stories. When imparting knowledge to children, it is important to create an engaging and relaxed environment. This allows them to better absorb information and remember what they learn. Show off some cool tricks to get them excited about learning! Make it into a game, but always remember to emphasize the importance of rope safety.