Explaining the Trinity to a Child

Yesterday, while driving home after church, five-year-old Ellie and I had an interesting conversation–spawned by Ellie, of course.

“Mom, God is everywhere, isn’t He?”
“Yes, honey.  God is all around us.  He’s in our hearts and in everyone we meet.  There’s a little bit of God inside each and every person.”
“So, if there’s some of God in you, then I’m talking to God right now…right?”
“Well, yes…I guess so.  And I guess that means I’m talking to God right now, too.”

The conversation continued to meander its way around all things celestial.

“Mom, why do we call God ‘God’?”
“Well, that’s just one name we use for Him.  We can also say ‘Heavenly Father,’ and other people around the world use other terms like, ‘Yaweh,’ ‘The Great I Am,’ and ‘Allah.'”
“We could also say, ‘Heavenly Mother, right?”

Damn, that girl is good.

“Well yes, honey, we could say ‘Heavenly Mother.'”
“Or, we could call God ‘The Great Wind’?”
“Sure, we could call Him…or Her… The Great Wind.  Some people use the term The Great Spirit, or The Holy Spirit.”

And thus began the next part of the discussion on The Trinity (after I asked her who taught her the terms Heavenly Mother and The Great Wind…to which she replied, ‘No one…I just knew them on my own.’).

By rote repetition, Ellie knows to describe Jesus as being a part of God.  But I’ve wondered how to solidify this understanding in her and, eventually in her brothers when, as an adult, I still have a difficult time understanding it.  Then I had a light bulb moment.

Upon returning home, I pulled out a clear glass bowl plus another smaller bowl, some canola oil and blue food coloring.  I filled the bottom of the glass bowl with oil.  I put a small amount of water in a second bowl and added a few drops of food coloring.  Then I carefully added the died water to the oil…so that the blue-died water would sit in one circular spot in the middle of the oil (oil and water don’t mix y’all…remember?)

I called the kids into the kitchen to share with them my “experiement.”

“See this blue blob you guys?  This is kind of like God.  God can sometimes be in one place at one time.”

Then I took a tooth pick and gently poked and prodded at the drop of blue water until I succeeded in separating away two smaller drops of blue.

“And sometimes, God can separate into three different parts…those parts are called God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit.  But just like these smaller blue drops, they are a part of one big drop…they’re all part of the same thing.”

Then, I made a crude drawing to further demonstrate my point.


Who knows how far it sunk in.  But, dovetailed onto the message they hear every Sunday in Godly Play (the Episcopalian version of Sunday school): about how, when a candle is burning the light is in one place…and then when you put the candle out and the flame turns to smoke…the smoke (a.k.a ‘the light’) has the ability to go everywhere…just like God has the ability to be all places at all times and in different forms…hopefully they will begin to get it.

How do you explain crucial elements of religion to your child(ren)?



Filed under family, Kids, Religion

2 responses to “Explaining the Trinity to a Child

  1. My son recently asked me a question relating to the trinity and I didn’t know how to answer him. I asked a friend of mine how to explain the trinity to a 5 year old and she didn’t know either and asked a children’s pastor. The answer she came back to me with was an egg. You have the hard outer shell and the yolk and the white of the egg and all are one but seperate too. I thought this was a great answer but I also wanted other examples which lead me to your site. The food coloring is a great idea and I look forward to using this in a future Bible study with my son. I homeschool my son and often need to refer the computer world to gain insight on topics that are difficult to explain to a 5 year old. :0)
    Thanks for the great tip!

  2. LaLani,

    So glad I could help. With kids who constantly challenge me with beyond-their-years questions, I too am always looking for new ways to engage their curiosity and satisfy their desire to learn! (Plus, I am a very visual person so…this particular activity worked well for me, too!)


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