Teach Kids About Transubstantiation- An Object Lesson

We’re working on helping our kids understand the true presence in the Eucharist as First Communion time approaches for our oldest. To understand the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, you have to explain transubstantiation. I’ve been loving the idea of trying out some object lessons for Catholic kids at home, and I wanted to share one of them with you today.

explaining the true presence in the Eucharist to kids

Transubstantiation is the process of the bread and wine truly changing in substance into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Although our outside senses (taste, touch, smell, etc) still see it as bread and wine, it is actually the Body and Blood of Christ. This object lesson helps to understand the concept of transubstantiation.

You start with a ball. We used this spiky red ball. Then, I painted it blue. (I made this easy by putting paint on a paper plate and rolling it around with my spagetti-picker-upper-thingies.)

object lesson for Catholic kids

You talk to the kids and ask questions like:

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  • What has changed about the ball? (the color)
  • Is it a different ball now? (no)
  • Did it actually change? (no)
  • What is different about it? (the way it looks)

You make the point that it’s exactly the same ball, but it looks different. Then you tell them that the Eucharist is exactly the opposite. When the host is turned into the body of Christ, it doesn’t look different, smell different, or even taste different- yet what it is has completely changed. It’s the opposite of what happened to the ball. You can explain it from the perspective of the bread, and then also the wine.

Once you feel like you’ve made your point, you can wash the wet paint back off of your ball and return it to your toy box. Our ball actually washed off quite quickly.

For more resources for teaching your kids about First Communion and First Reconciliation, check out my resource page here!

Picture Book of the Mass



  1. Thanks for the great ideas. They are helpful with my religious ed kindergarten. May I ask what kind of paint did you use?

  2. I love your blog! But I must disagree with this particular lesson. It is confusing. An ‘object lesson’ is something that serves as a practical example of a principle or abstract idea,
    “When the host is turned into the body of Christ, it doesn’t look different, smell different, or even taste different- yet what it is has completely changed. It’s the opposite of what happened to the ball. You don’t use O.L. to teach opposites. The conceptionalization of transubstantiation is a difficult thought for adults to absorb, that is why it is an idea left more to faith than thought. Perhaps exploring three extraordinary miracles of the Eucharist – Santarem, Amsterdam & Offida or sharing a video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqsRDD6kXWY ) will get them thinking.

  3. Maybe for the smallest ones we should start with a box with a hole to put the hand inside and place an objetc there. With the eyes covered they could start playing this game, trying to see without the eyes, using other senses. After a time playing start questions like: what’s the color you think the object you are holding has? Things like this could be fun to the 5-6 years old… I’ll try.

    Thanks for always sharing!

  4. This is great! Can’t wait to do it with my kids at home and in my faith formation class. When I was working with the youth group, there was a youth leader who used CDs as an analogy. It looks like a disc but after you burn it, there is something more to it…music…even though you can’t see it. I love your ball idea though. It’s great for early childhood! Cd’s might be a little more difficult.

    • Great idea using the CD to help the kids understand. I’ll be using that in our next class. Thank you!

  5. Simply a brilliant way to explain!

  6. I was writing this into my lesson plans, but on further thought I tend to agree that young kids might find this confusing since it is such a vivid image, and remember the “wrong” lesson. I was thinking on this and another idea occurred to me. I think I might do an object lesson with a class of water, and some liquid sugar (simple syrup, which is clear). The water does not change its appearance with the addition of the simple syrup, but it changes! This has the same problem as your image in that we have to back track and explain that while the TASTE of the water changes, that does NOT happen with the Host, but it comes a little closer since it does illustrate a change we cannot see (and we can refer to the “sweetness” of the Lord.) It occurred to me to do the same thing but add liquid vitamins…..but, that has the same issue as the thing we’re trying to explain – they have to take it on trust!

  7. Michaele says

    Have you considered using eggs? After the egg is boiled, the shell and shaped are the same, but it changes “inside.” Just looking at the outside of two eggs, you can’t tell which one is boiled and which one is not. Kids can see the water boiling and eggs in the pan but they can’t “see” the change on the inside. Kids can see and hear the priest saying the prayers, but they can’t see the change. This is what I am going to use to explain to my class.

    • Wow, I really like the egg explanation! I think i will use this in my religious ed classes.

    • This is THE BEST. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeannie Trinetti says

      The egg idea seems actually more analogous to the mystery of transubstantiation for kids, and I totally agree that using an “opposite” object lesson might be a bit confusing to younger children. The visual, obvious change of the ball from red to blue is what would be remembered by young children, not the VERBAL message that transubstantiation is actually the opposite of what they just witnessed. Instead, with the egg example, I would show the kids two raw eggs, then show them ONE going into the water to be boiled while the other is not. Then (without them seeing which one is which and with an adult holding the eggs), show them both of the original two eggs again. They would not be allowed to smell, touch or shake them at all as these clues might tip them off. Once they have realized that there is NO way to tell them apart visually, just from looking at the outside, crack open the eggs to see that one is raw and the other hard-boiled and, ergo, changed forever. The message and lesson is that the thing changed COMPLETELY on the inside (the unseen side) based on the effects of what happened ~ in the egg’s case, being boiled; in the bread and wine’s case, being blessed and touched by the Holy Spirit! The next step in this example would be to talk about how the Body and Blood of Jesus never, ever return to being plain ol’ bread and wine again (which is why it is reverenced in the Tabernacle, and why we are so careful with the patens and chalices which have touched Him). A hard-boiled egg can never become raw again! Jeannie 🙂

    • Monica Benninghoff says

      I like this idea best.

  8. Lidia Landon Michael says

    I love the ideas in the comments about using a CD and and egg for a demonstration. Anybody have other examples? Especially important topic now , as the recent Pew Research has shown that 70% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence. 🙁

  9. James Clarke says

    I would like to add to the discussion, but with the change in the wine. I show the children a clear glass of water and a glass of orange cordial. I ask them a few times what is in each glass, after three times they usually start laughing. Next I pour some orange into the water, then ask them what is in the glass? Some will say orange and water, others usually say just orange, the two have mixed and become something different, but they are the same as we began with water and orange. The wine is still wine, but it is now mixed with Jesus to become something different. Hoe this helps.

    • Lidia Landon Michael says

      But don’t we as Catholics, believe that the wine is no longer wine? To say it is now wine mixed with Jesus does not convey that.

  10. Are we maybe being too, well, Western about this? The Eucharist is a mystery and cannot really be explained. It just is. Scholasticism and experiments are all well and good and are quite fun, but can the mind really understand the Eucharist? Can we really understand the Incarnation?

    I wish I could explain to my kids what exactly happens or give examples, but there is nothing like the Eucharist. Jesus said, “This is my body.” So it’s His Body. Maybe we just need to focus on teaching our children loving submission to heavenly authority (especially the Church, Scripture, and God) rather than trying to explain this? When I adore the Eucharist, I don’t think of a ball or an egg or the how/why behind it, I think of the face of Jesus, and I trust that it is Jesus because, well, it is. Just like a flower is a flower and a mouse is a mouse; someone, a parent probably, gave me the word to explain the thing–this is a table, this is a chair–and therefore the thing is the word (or, in this case, the thing is the Word!). So if we just tell our children what Jesus said, we’ve done what we can, and then we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to give them the Gift of Understanding and the virtue of Faith. He alone can give our children what we cannot.

    • Annie Kitching says

      Beautifully said!

    • Love this. Thank you.

      • Maeghan Hennessey says

        I do like the egg example, and I also do like the comments that sometimes we cannot observe, we just believe. For my class, I use a liquid example. I prepare different cups of water, and they all look like water. But some are salt water and some are sugar water etc. I lead my class in a discussion about what we observe. I then pick volunteers to be brave (who will taste the liquid) and talk about how we trust them and what they say. Then I have my “brave volunteers” taste the water. We talk about what they have tasted and listen and trust their witness. The whole point of the lesson is that: Our senses do not tell us everything about what is true, and we have to rely on Jesus because He is trustworthy and his testimony is true to tell us the whole truth about what we cannot see. The kids seem to very much understand it when we use this analogy to talk about the Real Presence. (Plus, it is usually hilarious so the kids remember and we can refer back to it multiple times.)