My four year old asked this a few weeks ago and I smiled. I was more than happy to answer her. However, I needed her siblings to hear the response too so a few days later, I gathered them around and we had to discuss this.
Many adults ask this as well, they cannot understand why God placed a forbidden tree in the garden in the first place. Many atheists also Cite this as a reason not to believe in Christianity.
The first thing to understand here is that, God loves us but he doesn’t force us to love him. Love is a gift that is freely given. I asked my children is they are being forced to love any of their friends or even mum and dad and they all responded ‘no’.
With love comes freedom and responsibility. Meaning God loves us but also gives us free will to either choose or reject Him (you can further explain this by saying, God allows us freedom to either obey or disobey Him).
Therefore, God allowed the tree of knowledge of good and evil to grow in Eden inorder to give Adam and Eve a choice to either follow him or reject him. God also have them clear instructions.
My 8 year old reminded me that it was neither the fault of Adam nor Eve, it was the serpent who deceived them.
My response: well, yes, but the serpent did not force Eve to eat the fruit. He twisted the truth and made disobedience look harmless and attractive. He didn’t tell them what they stand to lose if they disobey God.
My 8 year old: that means EVERY TIME we disobey, we are obeying the serpent.
Me: exactly!!!!! Every disobedience to God is obedience to the serpent.
We ended this little meeting with a memory verse from Genesis 2:17 KJV
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil , thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.