Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat?
Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, blowing a whistle, and the like. Only sound produced by one’s mouth, i.e. singing, is permissible on Shabbat.
Clearly, anything which produces sound by means of electricity may not be used on Shabbat. Our discussion here involves objects which produce sound on their own, such as through a simple bell and the like, but not through electronic means.
Based on the aforementioned prohibition to produce sound on Shabbat, one may not produce sound on Shabbat using a toy called “Miriam’s Drum” which produces a musical sound merely by shaking it even without actually banging on it. This is tantamount to any other musical instrument.
Thus, it would seem that one may not hand this toy to one’s young children to play with on Shabbat; it will likewise be forbidden to hand a whistle to a young child to play with on Shabbat, since this action is forbidden on Shabbat and one must educate one’s children regarding Shabbat observance. (This is besides the fact that one may not permit one’s young child to perform a forbidden action on Shabbat, for we are commanded not to perform forbidden works on Shabbat even by use of our animals; certainly, we may not do so through our children. This is stated explicitly in the Midrash. See Chazon Ovadia- Shabbat, Volume 3, page 101 and Shabbat, Volume 4, page 119.)
Nevertheless, several luminaries of the past generation, including Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (in his Minchat Shlomo, Part 1, Chapter 35) and Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l (in his Ohr Le’Zion, Part 2, Chapter 26), have written that toys which do not produce actual musical tunes, such as a doll with a bell on it, a toy car which makes noise when it rides, or most other toys and games which do not produce a proper, pleasant, musical tune and the intention of producing this sound is not to produce a tune, are not forbidden for use by our Sages. In any event, there is room for leniency here with regards to young children.
Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l adds that children may play with toy cars which operate using a spring or coil on Shabbat. Although there are those who rule stringently on this matter, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that halachically speaking, one may act leniently in this regard (as long as no sparks are produced as a result).
Summary: One may not give one’s child a musical instrument to play with on Shabbat, such as a drum, whistle, and the like. However, toys which do not produce a pleasant, musical tune and only produce noise, such as toy cars which produce noise when they ride and dolls with bells on them, may be given to young children to play with on Shabbat (until the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah). There is likewise no prohibition of Muktzeh transgressed by passing these toys to children.