Looking for something green, fun, and free to do this summer? Consider making ropes of grass and playing tug-o-war with any group of people—from adults to kids as young as 7 or 8 years old. Building grass ropes requires teamwork and cooperation. Testing the ropes for strength is an opportunity for great camaraderie and raucous competition. Try it school kids, boy scouts, girls scouts, or even at a family reunion. All can be accomplished in less than an hour!
As a wilderness survival instructor, it occurred to me that with enough hands working together, we might be able to form a human rope-making machine. We experimented with a class of kids and quickly spun up our first two-strand rope. It was a huge hit, and the kids had a blast playing tug-o-war with the rope. We’ve made many grass ropes since that time, experimenting with different grasses in different seasons. For easy manipulation by hand, we keep each strand at least one inch thick, forming a rope at least two inches in diameter.
Step 1: Cutting Grass
Generally speaking, any tall green grass will work for grass ropes. Two feet or more in height is ideal. Dry grass can work if it is not too brittle. Grass cuts are a likely hazard while collecting the grass, but not likely while making or using the rope. Therefore, each person should wear at least one glove while collecting the grass. I keep a bucket of otherwise mismatched or worn-out gloves on hand for activities such as this. To pick the grass by hand, grab a handful near the base of the stalks and thrust straight downward (keeping the grass vertical) to help break the stems, then rip the handful out horizontally. Optionally, grass can be cut with sheath knives, if the group has them. You can also use grass clippers and cut enough grass for the whole rope before the activity begins. One big garbage bag stuffed full is adequate to make one grass rope.