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Can I color on Shabbat?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Shabbat » Forbidden Activities | Subscribe | What is RSS?



An issue that has come up at our synagogue is which activities are appropriate for kids on the weekend. Some have asked whether it’s okay for young kids to color as part of a Shabbat program.

This is certainly not “work”, but I can see the point of not wanting them to do something that is “creative”. However, I don’t see how this is very different from other recreational activities like reading a book or going to a museum.

If this is not permitted, what activities would you suggest?


“Work” means different things to different people in different contexts. Some examples:

“Do you work for a living?” simply means “do you have a job – any job?”

Children can also get together for a special Shabbat event at which they say some prayers, sing some songs, learn a little about their history and heritage, hear a story, and have special treats
“This works,” means that an entity functions or does what it is supposed to.

“Work it out” means “figure it out; solve the problem.”

There are more meanings too—for example, “what works for you?”

When the Torah says not to work on Shabbat, it is referring to a specific kind of work; namely creative work similar to the work done to create the Tabernacle. In this context, only this is considered “work”. All other definitions of work – such as labor, effort, difficult, etc. – don’t belong in this context.

One of the “creative works” used in building the Tabernacle was writing. They wrote symbols on its wall-beams which showed which beams went alongside each other. Thus, creating letters or pictures is forbidden on Shabbat.

[For more about activities appropriate for Shabbat, read the following link from our knowledgebase:]

There are all sorts of games – educational games, board games, interactive games, etc. – which children can play on Shabbat. Children can also get together for a special Shabbat event at which they say some prayers, sing some songs, learn a little about their history and heritage, hear a story, and have special treats.

Shabbat is also a good time for parents to spend quality time in discussion and activities with their children—instead of just hitting the sack and “finding” something for the children to do.


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Question to types of games permitted on Shabbat

Posted by: Anonymous, Winter Park, FL on Apr 02, 2006

Your article mentions educational or board games for children to play on Shabbat. What about walks in the park, nature hikes, good old fashioned game of kickball. My children are new to Shabbat oberservance (16, 13, 10) and I want to keep it interesting for them as well as spiritual. So far, on Friday nights we might read the weekly parashah. But I often find that afterwards everyone wants to watch a movie of some sort. Then on Shabbat morning, if there is no service held at our synagogue, sleep and cartoons are on the menu. I understand what can't be done. But what can be done for older children new to the obervance?

Editor's Comment

Enjoying nature is a wonderful way to spend some Shabbat leisure hours. Stay away from the television and movies...
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.