For many of us this can be a challenge. I find one of the hardest things I teach are the basic knots. Once the have the foundation teaching them more advanced pioneering gets fun once you pull out the logs and boxes of rope to make amazing things like towers, bridges and gateways.
First, the quickest, funniest, and best way to learn knots is by doing. Personally I like to show them how to tie the knot and then have them tie it many times themselves. I have found through experience they will get right once, screw up 6 times, get right 3 times, screw it up 4 times. Get it right and take off flying.
Second, I found it works best to make it fun and as game like as possible. So a few things I do include start off simple, with the overhand. They all know how to tie their shoes, an overhand is just the first part before making the bow. Left over right done … or right over left done. Move on to the larks head, rope folded in half, push the ends through the loop at the other end of the rope done. Both these knots are simple to do and simple to teach. They work to build the belief of the Scout, now they master two knots, onto the Square knot. Anyway you get the idea.
By the way I can tie the square knot eight different ways. It helps to demonstrate these ideas as a break when a Scout get flustered. Also I found sometimes a Scout easily masters one way but is completely confused by another way to tie the same knot.
Third, I like to mix in tricks. For example: take a coil of rope, pull end out of it and have a knot evenly spaced all the way up. Another trick I love and use in some ceremonies to, is taking three ropes of different sizes and make them 3 ropes the same size. There are also tricks to take say the square knot, feed end of rope through it, pull and everything unties – known as the vanishing knot. To learn knot tricks I found the Cub Scout magic book (I assume its still in print), den chief handbook, and local Scouters to be great resources.
Forth, there is nothing better then being thrown into it. My passion for pioneering stems from when I was a first year Boy Scout. I “helped” the Troop create a tower. It one of the few memories I have with that Troop and I had lots of fun, but more importantly complete the knots part of a skill award (which sadly we don't have any more.).
Lastly, don't over do it teach a few knots at a time. Most Scouts have a very short attention span to learning how to tie them. They also find knot tying frustrating. When I was a Webelos working on Outdoorsman so many long years ago (did I just date myself :P) my parents literally how to grab me as I wander through the room through me in there lap just to teach me a minute here and minute there at a time. So be patient and make it fun.
How do you teach knots?