Matchstick Camouflage (Ages 5-7)

Animals often rely on their coloring to hide from other animals. Play this fun matchstick game. Then you’ll see how being the same color as the environment helps things blend in. You can play the game by yourself or with your family and friends!

Colored matchsticksMaterials Needed:

  • One package colored wood craft matchsticks (See notes below)
  • A patch of green grass
  • A timer or a watch with a second hand
  • A person to keep time

Each player needs 10 matchsticks of each color. If you have red, blue, yellow and green matchsticks, each player should get 40 matchsticks in total. Take your colored sticks to a patch of green grass. Mix up the matchsticks and drop them in the grass. Try to distribute them evenly.

Set the timer, or have someone watch the time, for two minutes. Have the time keeper say, “Ready, set, find!” Pick up as many matchsticks as you can before time’s up. At the end of two minutes, sort by color the matchsticks that you picked up. Count how many of each color you found.


Hidden matchsticks
Colored matchsticks thrown into tall grass

Now answer the following questions:

  • Which color matchsticks were the easiest to find?
  • Which color matchsticks were the most difficult to find?
  • Why do you think so?
  • Can you see why it’s good for an animal to be the same color as its surroundings?

Note on where to get matchsticks: carries colored matchsticks (make sure to search for “matchsticks” and not “matchstick” on the Web site) in a package of 2,000 for $5.95 plus shipping and handling. If you don’t need that many matchsticks (they can be used for other crafts), you can find natural-colored matchsticks at Michael’s Arts & Crafts stores in the Milwaukee area. We found a package of 150 for $2.49. See the directions below for how to dye them yourself with food coloring.

Note on how to dye matchsticks using food coloring:

Be prepared to get your hands messy, or wear plastic gloves while working with food coloring. Put the matchsticks, 10 at a time, in a small glass or ceramic bowl. Drip food coloring over them and roll the matchsticks around in the food coloring to coat completely. Wipe the excess coloring on the sides of the bowl, then place the matchsticks on three layers of paper towels to dry. Repeat with new matchsticks and other colors. Wash your gloves/hands and the bowl before changing colors. Make sure to dye several of the matchsticks green, and make at least four different colors. You can mix the food coloring in the bowl to make other colors like orange (red+yellow) or purple (blue+red). If you add 1/2 teaspoon of water to the bowl with the food coloring and matchsticks, the color will be lighter.

Photos by Gabbi Chee

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