How to Make a Match Stick Rocket

Your kids will love this educational fire science experiment! They will discover the amazing power of physics as their match stick rockets fly through the air.

Match Stick Rocket Ignition

Are you looking for an engaging science experiment to fire up your kids’ imaginations? Then look no further than the match stick rocket experiment!

I don’t know about your kids, but mine absolutely love fire science experiments. Using fire makes the experiments extra exciting, especially when an explosion is involved!

Launching a match stick rocket is a great way to show your kids how Newton’s Laws of Motion, thrust, and air pressure work. And it’s dramatic experiments like this that will really stick in your children’s memory and help them understand complex science concepts as they get older.

Get ready for squeals of delight as you launch match stick rockets with your little ones!

How to Make Match Stick Rockets

As with any fire experiment, make sure you take extra safety precautions. Always point the match rocket away from people or flammable materials. Doing it outdoors or in an area of the house that is clear of any nearby objects is recommended. Have a cup of water nearby in case you need to extinguish the fire.


  • Matchbox matches
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper clip
  • Optional: lighter
Match Stick Rocket Materials


1. Make the launch pad for the match stick rocket by bending the paper clip. Simply take the inside loop and pull it upward. Then take the straight end of the outer loop and push it outward.

Match Stick Rocket Make Launch Pad from Paper Clip

2. Depending on the size of your match stick, you may need to cut a section of the wooden stick off to ensure that the match stick is not too long for the launch pad. Our match stick was too long, so if we were to place it on the launch pad without cutting it shorter, it would fall over.

Match Stick Rocket Trim Wooden Stick

3. Cut a small square from the aluminum foil. Wrap the match head in aluminum foil. Make sure to wrap the fire starter part tightly but leave a small opening around the wooden stick.

Match Stick Rocket Wrap Aluminum Foil

4. Place your wrapped match stick rocket in the launch pad and make sure it can stand on its own. You may need to adjust the paper clip or the length of the wooden stick.

Match Stick Rocket Wrap Aluminum Foil

5. Fold a piece of aluminum foil into a rectangle and place it underneath the paper clip. This is just to protect the surface from getting stained or burnt by the match stick rocket taking off.

Match Stick Rocket Protect Surface

6. Ignite the match stick rocket by holding a fire underneath the aluminum foil. You can use another match or a lighter. We tried with both and while both worked, it’s much easier to use the lighter since with the match you have to worry about the possibility of burning your hand before the rocket blasts off.

Match Stick Rocket Ignite with Fire

7. You will hear a sizzling sound right before the combustion. So once you hear the sound, get ready for the match stick rocket to lift off!

Match Stick Rocket Gas Escapes

8. Watch the match stick rocket fly through the air!

Match Stick Rocket Launch in Air

Match Stick Rocket Troubleshooting

I will be honest and say that this science experiment was not the easiest one. We tried several times before we got the match stick rocket to shoot the right way. Sometimes it would simply combust and not go anywhere, and other times it would explode backward.

That said, it was a great opportunity for me to discuss with my kids what they think were the problems and what we could do to fix them. We would implement their proposed solutions and observe the results to see what improved and what other issues remained.

Here are some tips that we learned by trial and error:

  • Do not place the fire too close to the match stick rocket – You might set the wood part on fire.
  • If your match stick rocket is not propelling forward and exploding backward instead, you might need to add another layer or two of aluminum foil. We have found that using just one thin layer of aluminum foil often results in a hole in the aluminum foil at the fire starter. This causes the match stick rocket to fly backward instead since the gas escapes out the hole instead of the opening of the aluminum foil.
  • Make sure the aluminum foil is not wrapped too tightly around the match. If you wrap it too tightly, the gas can’t escape out of the opening and end up exploding out of the match head.

Science Behind the Match Stick Rocket

Match stick rockets are an excellent way to explore Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When the match stick is lit, the burning fuel produces hot exhaust gases which expand rapidly and escape from the nozzle or tail of the rocket. This rapid expansion creates thrust, propelling the rocket into the air. This increase in speed is achieved by Newton’s Third Law – when something pushes against something else, both objects will move in opposite directions with equal force and speed.

Match Stick Rocket Combustion

Your kids can explore how different opening sizes in the aluminum foil impact the speed at which the rocket blasts off:

  • If you loosely wrap the aluminum foil and leave a big hole for the gas to escape, you will most likely see just smoke coming out of the bottom and no launch. The big hole allows the gas to escape, thus preventing pressure from building up in the aluminum foil.
  • Do the opposite and wrap the aluminum foil very tightly around the fire starter and wooden stick. In this case, the pressure would build up but the gas has nowhere to go. As a result, the gas will explode out of the top of the match stick when there is too much pressure.
  • If you leave a small opening but just slightly too big for the match stick rocket to take off, you might find that the aluminum foil wrap launches without the wooden stick. This happened to us several times when the aluminum foil took off without the rest of the match stick rocket. The kids thought it was hilarious!


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