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Is it permitted to put together puzzles on Shabbat with children?
Does it matter what kind of puzzle it is (jigsaw vs. fit the piece in the wooden hole)? Does it matter if there are words on the puzzle? Does the age of the child matter? Which milachot of Shabbat fall need consideration?

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According to Shemirath Shabbath, by Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth (Chapter 16):

23) One is allowed to play games in which letters, or parts of letters or of a picture, are placed side-by-side so as to make up a whole word or picture, provided that

a. this does not involve setting the word or picture in a frame that holds it together and

b. the various sections are not interlocked and fixed together, as they are in most jigsaw puzzles.

24) Playing with a game consisting of (usually) fifteen movable, lettered or numbered squares set in a framed board the size of sixteen such squares, and rearranging the squares by moving them about within the board, is permissable on Shabbath and Yom Tov.

(emphasis his)

Now, while this book is popular and well-accepted, it's by no means the final word, and the English version doesn't cite sources. So, you should probably ask your Rabbi about your particular toys.

But based on this, it seems to me that jigsaw puzzles that assemble a picture would be forbidden, while putting shapes in their holes wouldn't be. He seems to make no distinction between assembling words and assembling pictures.

I don't see how the age of the child would impact what the parent is allowed to do with them, in cases like this. If it's forbidden, it's forbidden, no matter whom you're doing it with. The child's age would impact what you're allowed to let them play with by themselves, but that's even more of an "ask your Rabbi" question, since it's very dependent on the particular stage of development of the child.

I'm pretty sure that the primary relevant Melacha would be Writing, since you're putting together things that are normally written (words, drawings), but maybe there are others involved.

Interesting note: The rule in (23a) is why some people will play regular Scrabble (with a flat board) on Shabbat, but not deluxe Scrabble (with a raised board that locks the pieces in position.

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Rav Neuwirth's work does have footnotes, which were extensively reviewed by Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt", your are correct, however, insofar as they were not translated into English. –  Yirmeyahu May 11 '10 at 6:47
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Another relavent melacha would probably be building (ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm#31). –  Monica Cellio May 18 '11 at 18:38
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@Monica, I'm not so sure about that, since no structure is being erected. Can you cite a source or related precedent? –  Isaac Moses May 18 '11 at 18:41
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A local Rabbi (though not one that I usually rely on) told me that if the pieces of the puzzle can be separated from each other without lifting them from the surface of the floor/table, then it is permitted to assemble and disassemble. Otherwise, it is not. –  jake May 18 '11 at 19:03
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Re: "He seems to make no distinction between assembling words and assembling pictures."-- R' Dovid Ribiat points this out in The 39 Melachos and disagrees with it. See vol.4, Kosaiv, note 9. –  jake May 19 '11 at 0:25
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