Nautical Knots

Length of Program

60 minutes

Program Description


Takes me away

To where I've always heard it could be

Just a dream and the wind to carry me

And soon I will be free”

-From “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.

What better way to spend a summer day than sailing on a beautiful breeze?  While not every teen has the opportunity to sail, some of the skills of sailors, such as tying knots, are useful in everyday life.  In this program, teens will learn to tie simple and intricate knots such as figure eights and stop knots and will learn about sailing. They will also learn how knots can be used in everyday life.


Contact local community organizations such as state parks, sailing groups, scout leaders, marinas, or local experts about giving a presentation on sailing and tying knots. In advance, prepare and copy a handout with directions for tying knots. You will find instructions for tying knots in books or at web sites for outdoor adventuring, such as Northern Mountain Supply, or the Explorers At Sea web site at Provide several pieces of rope or thick string for the teens to ties into knots. For beginners, the thicker the rope the easier it is to learn how to tie.

Gather books from your collection to display about sailing and knots.

Books to Display

  • Chapman Essential Marine Knots by Dominique Le Brun.
  • 40 Knots to Know: Hitchings, Loops, Bends and Bindings by Emily Stetson.
  • The Handbook of Knots by Des Pawson.
  • Knots and How to Tie Them by Walter B. Gibson.

Books to Booktalk

  • The Book of Knots: How to Tie 200 Practical Knots by Geoffery Budworth.
  • Encyclopedia of Knots: An Easy-To-Use, Step-By-Step Guide to Expert Knot Tying by Cristian Biosca.
  • Knots In My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid by Jerry Spinelli.
  • The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer.
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi.

Bulletin Board 

Cover the bulletin board with white or colored kraft paper or with fabric that has a nautical design. Use die-cut letters to spell out “Tied into Knots?” and staple the caption at the top of the bulletin board. Attach pictures of different types of knots or actual pieces of rope tied into knots. You can find examples on web sites such as Northern Mountain Supply, or the Explorers At Sea web site at


Serve twisted pretzels, licorice lace, or twisted crackers, such as Twisted Cheese-Its™, and drinks for this program. You might want to have several different kinds of drinks and invite the teens to mix flavors to make their own twisted favorite.


Oriental Trading Company,, sells inexpensive prizes, such as Radical Rainbow Rope Rings and Adjustable Rope Bracelets.


Knot Bracelets


  • Thin bracelet rope
  • Beads


Visit Making at and select two or three styles of bracelets for the children to make. Copy the instructions and purchase needed supplies. Thin bracelet ropes can be purchased from most craft stores, and plastic ropes may be purchased online at Kwik Crafts, Beads may be purchased from craft stores. Distribute the instructions sheets to the teens and let them select a bracelet to make. They may string beads between the knots for added decoration.

Games and Activities

Knot Write Instructions

For this activity, teens will need to have computer access. Divide the group into teams of at least 2 people. Have each team choose one person to be their representative. Separate the representatives from their teams. Give the team members 5-10 minutes to find a web site and learn how to tie a knot. Separate the teams from the computers and have them write the directions from memory on how to tie the knot they chose.  Have the team members give the directions to their team representative. Each team representative will try to tie the knot using the directions provided by their team. Give prizes to the team whose representative is the first one to correctly tie the knot.

Guest Speakers

Invite your local Boy Scout troop to demonstrate knot tying. Invite a local boating or sailing enthusiast to talk about sailing and show how to tie knots and what they are used to do. If you are located near a state park or have a parks department for your city, you can contact those organizations about a demonstration.


If you have public performance rights, show these videos and DVDs, or segments of them, to the teens. Otherwise, display them for home use.

Basic Knots. (90 minutes)

Web Sites

Boatsafe Kids

This site gives instructions with clear illustrations for tying knots.

Professional Resources

Explorers At Sea

This web site has photographs and instructions on how to tie knots and how they are to be used.


Provides instructions for making many types of friendship bracelets.

Net Knots

This site has information on knots divided by what the knots are used for.

Northern Mountain Supply

This outdoor supply store provides detailed illustrations on how to tie knots for camping and boating.

Kwik Crafts

An online source for crafting materials.

Oriental Trading Company

Inexpensive party supplies, prizes, and gifts are available from this supplier.


Texas Reading Club 2007 Programming Manual / Sail Away with Books!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011