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Matchstick Cross Project

As a Religion teacher I am always looking for high-quality projects that are a nice supplement to the  textbook (which, let’s face it – can sometimes be a little dull and not exactly inspiring).

A perfect Lenten project is this beautiful cross made from pre-burned matchsticks. This is not a project I would take on in my Kindergarten classroom – the work is far too tedious for my little kinders.  My mom teaches 2nd Grade and she makes these crosses with her students each year during Lent. The burned matchsticks are a reference toward Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
Burnt matchstick cross tutorial
Have Parents Burn Matches at Home

Before your students can create a cross, you need to get some pre-burnt matches. This is a homework assignment for the parents. To complete the cross, each child will need a box of 300 matches that have been pre-burnt at home. For safety purposes, I recommend that parents burn the matches outside and store them in a metal pan. (You can speed the process up by striking 2-3 matches at a time). When ashes have cooled, they can be returned to the box. The box can be labeled with the child’s name and sent to school. 

Have Parents Pre-Burn Matches at Home

Gather Supplies

This is a very simple project that only requires a few supplies. Each child will need:

a box of 300 matchsticks
a pre-cut cross template (copied onto cardstock)
a pop can tab

The glue can get pretty messy, so I place all materials on a piece of wax paper labeled with the child’s name. The wax paper helps the cross pop easily off after it is dry. Also be prepared to clean up lots of stray pieces of ash. Do this project on a surface that can easily be wiped clean.
Burnt matchstick cross tutorial

Getting Started

The early steps are VERY important in determining how the finished product will turn out. The template has an “X” in the center of the cross. Begin by gluing 4 matchsticks onto the X (with the burnt part on the outside).
Burnt matchstick cross tutorial
Then add a light layer of glue to 1 section of the cross. Begin at the X and work your way toward the outside of that section, using the center line as a guide.
Burnt matchstick cross tutorial
When your first section is finished, add glue to the empty space across from it, begin at the X, and glue matchsticks outward once again.
Burnt matchstick cross tutorial
Continue the process around the rest of the cross, always starting at the X when you begin a new section.

Burnt matchstick cross tutorial


Burnt matchstick cross tutorial


Burnt matchstick cross tutorial


Burnt matchstick cross tutorial


Burnt matchstick cross tutorial


Burnt matchstick cross tutorial

When the cross is complete, let it dry for a few hours. After the glue has set, gently remove it from the wax paper and glue the pop can tab to the top of the underside. This will allow your students to easily hang the cross at home.
Use a pop can tab as a hook for hanging student artwork

Download a Cross Template

Click on the thumbnail to download a template of the cross. Make copies of it on card stock for your students to cut out and use. I used an ivory-colored card stock because it is s similar color to the matchsticks and won’t draw attention to itself if students have some gaps between their matchsticks after gluing.
Free Template for Burnt Matchstick Cross

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Maria Gavin

Maria is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, with 13 years of teaching experience. Her love and passion for all things early childhood is now fulfilled as a mom to two amazing kids. She loves sharing practical and creative tips and ideas that are perfect for young learners – in the classroom or at home!

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21 Responses

  1. I remember making one of these when I was a small child 50 years ago. My grandma always had it hung on the wall until she passed away. Love this cross and grandma.

  2. this is very cool, how big is the cross suppose to be, I know it has to be bigger than the small one that printed out. can you email me the measurements please. want to try for vacation Bible school

    1. Hi Brenda,
      If you printed the cross on 8.5×11″ paper and printed it at a scale of 100%, that is exactly the size you need for the project. Some printers automatically shrink PDFs so they fit within the print margins. If yours seems small, just double check and make sure the scale is set to 100%

  3. I like the idea of this project but was looking for some more historical and cultural references for these crosses and can’t seem to find anything. Do you have any more context or resources besides Lenten and Ash Wednesday?

  4. Ugh! My printer will not print out the whole cross. Set at 100% scale, it cuts off the bottom of the cross. Not sure if there is a way to change the margins for printing? So wierd because it shows the whole cross in the pic, but no matter what I do, other than scaling it down to 90%, it cuts the bottom off. If I use the template at 90% will it still work?

  5. I am wondering how long it took the children to do this craft.
    I am running crafts at a camp and need to schedule it .Thanks!

    1. It’s hard to say for sure, but 8 year old students probably need about an hour and a half to do a really nice job.

  6. Pingback: March Week 2
  7. I have seen this beautiful cross that you make with burnt matches but I am not good at trying to figure out the size of it and I have gotten my 300 matches burnt, I am 76 yrs old and I want to make myself one and each one of my three boys oneChristmas , my question is can you please give me the measurement , I did try it on a 8.5 x11 piece of paper and made a cross but before I do it I would like to know what the top of the cross is and how wide is the arms of the cross. thank you so very m uch and keep up with the good work you are doing.

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Hi, I'm Maria.

I’m a former kindergarten teacher turned work-from-home mom. I still love sharing ideas and resources to make teaching easier, so you can focus on what really matters in the classroom. When I’m not working on the blog, you’ll find me chasing kids around the house with a cold cup of coffee in my hand (some things never change even once you’re out of the classroom!)


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