A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
TOYS AND GAMES ON SHABBOS
Hashem gave us the gift of Shabbos, a holy day of rest, to be spent in
prayer and Torah study(1). This concept of Shabbos should be impressed upon
children as well, even while allowing them the games and toys that are
permitted on Shabbos. In the following article, we have divided many of the
most popular games and toys into two lists: The first includes those which
may be used on Shabbos by children [under the age of bar/bas mitzvah], and
the second which lists those that entail Biblical or Rabbinic violations of
Shabbos Labors. [Games involving balls will be discussed in a subsequent
A. PERMITTED GAMES AND TOYS:
Beads - Beads may be strung, but only if the knot at the end of the
string was tied before Shabbos(2).
Binoculars - Adjusting the focus is also permitted(3).
Board or dice games - Battleship, Chutes and Ladders, Risk, Trouble, etc.
Books(4) - Most poskim maintain that it is permitted to open and close
books which have words stamped on their edges, as is commonly found in
library books. The basic halachah conforms to their opinion(5). In deference
to the minority view, however, it is proper not to use such books when
others are available(6).
Cards - After the game is over, the cards may not be sorted by color,
Checkers, Chess, Dominoes
Hide-and-seek, Hopscotch, Jump rope, Tag(8).
Lego, Tinkertoy, Bristle Blocks - Most poskim allow playing with these
on Shabbos(9). There are, however some poskim who rule stringently(10).
Monopoly - Play money is not prohibited(11).
Pick-up-stix - If the game is usually played with the score being
recorded, it is forbidden to play even if the score will not be recorded. If
it is usually played without recording the score, then it is permitted.
Sandbox - Water may not be poured into the sand.
Scrabble for Junior(12).
Stamp collection - It may be shown and looked at when stamp collecting
is a hobby, not a business.
Sticker collection - It may be handled when the stickers are easily -
effortlessly - stuck on and peeled off. If they are stuck on firmly and will
remain intact for 24 hours, it may be prohibited(13).
Tent - It is permitted to drape a blanket over a table or a single chair
so that children can play underneath(14). It is prohibited, however, to
place a blanket over an empty space in between two or more chairs.
Tricycle(15) - It may be ridden in an enclosed area only.
B. FORBIDDEN GAMES AND TOYS:
Bells, rattles, phones, whistles - Any object whose purpose is to make
noise is Rabbinically forbidden(16). If it makes noise immediately upon
being picked up, it is also "severe" muktzeh(17).
Bicycle - It is prohibited because it is generally ridden out of an
enclosed area and is liable to require adjustment(18). It is considered
"light" muktzeh, which may be moved if the space it occupies is needed.
Boggle - Since it usually entails writing words and recording the score,
it is Rabbinically forbidden to play even if the words or the score will not
be written(19). Placing the cubes in the individual slots may also be
considered writing, since the letters remain fixed in the board. For this
reason, Junior Boggle may also be prohibited.
Clay, Playdough - These could involve aspects of the forbidden Shabbos
Labors of "Kneading," "Building," or "Writing."
Etch-A-Sketch, Magna Doodle
Models - Toys composed of parts which are screwed together are prohibited
because of the prohibition of "Building". These include airplane or train
Paper airplanes and boats - These can be played with, but not
Scrabble, Deluxe Scrabble - Because this usually requires writing the
score, it is forbidden to play even if the score will not be written. Deluxe
Scrabble may also be considered "Writing", since the letters remain attached
to the board(21).
Snowballs, snowman - Snow that fell before Shabbos is definitely not
muktzeh. Snow that fell on Shabbos is questionable muktzeh(22). Almost all
poskim agree, however, that a snowman or snowballs should not be made on
Shabbos(23). Writing in the snow is prohibited(24).
Tree-climbing - This is Rabbinically forbidden(25).
Weaving, Lanyards - Yarn, plastic, and other materials are all
C. QUESTIONABLE GAMES AND TOYS:
Puzzles - The issue is whether putting together shaped pieces to form a
word or a picture is considered "Writing". Some poskim prohibit doing all
kinds of puzzles(27), while others allow all kind of puzzles(28). Other
poskim allow them only when they are not in a frame and the pieces are not
tightly fitted together(29).
Wind-up toys - Some poskim allow wind-up toys (cars, robots, etc. without
batteries) unless they produce a spark(30). Other poskim disagree(31).
10 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 90 and in Yashiv
Moshe, pg. 35); Machazeh Eliyahu 69. Harav M. Feinstein is quoted (Sefer
Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 24) as not rendering a final ruling on this issue. See
also Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-27. It stands to reason that Waffle Blocks, which
are loosely connected blocks, would be permitted even according to the more
21 Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-14. See also Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 25.
22 Mishnah Berurah 338:30 writes that rain which fell on Shabbos is not
muktzeh. Some poskim (Har Tzvi, Soser; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv, Shalmei Yehudah,
pg. 203; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah, pg. 190) hold that snow is similar to
rain, while others (Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-37; Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Sefer
Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 13) maintain that snow may be considered severe
muktzeh. See also Mishnah Berurah 310:32, quoting Chayei Adam.