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The Talmud (Sukkah 2b; cited also here) implies that chinukh (educating children in halacha observance) necessitates that the mitzvah be fulfilled according to its halachik details (at least with regard to shiurim [minimum/maximum physical dimensions]; see Ritva)

See also Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 657 and Biur Halacha there:

כדי לחנכו במצות - ופשוט דצריך שיהיו ד' מינין כשרין כמו בגדול

...in order to educate him in the commandments - and it is obvious that the four species must be valid as for an adult.

Nonetheless, there is a whole industry marketing chinukh-objects that do not conform to halachik requirements/shiurim, e.g. the popular children's tzitzit that are not the minimum requirement to require tzitzit, or invalid "chinuch" arba minim (4 species) sets (both of which further entail the potential prohibitions of brachot l'vatala [blessings in vain].)

Are there any authorities who allow teaching children mitzvot using objects that are halachically invalid for their performance? (Rav Ovadiah Yosef, z"l, permits chinukh with a borrowed lulav on the first day of Sukkot. However, he still requires that the lulav itself be kosher for the owner.) What bases are there to justify common practice? Does anyone discuss the permissibility of selling/keeping these items?

  • Duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/46217, methinks. – msh210 Sep 10 '15 at 20:52
  • @msh210 I completely disagree; that question is about children who are 'younger than the age of chinuch' (even though I don't understand that). – הנער הזה Sep 10 '15 at 20:58
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    are you sure that the "chinuch" sets are pasul? I was under the impression that they are kosher, but not at all mehudar (or maybe only kosher according to some opinions; the tzitzis is a different story...) – הנער הזה Sep 10 '15 at 20:59
  • @Matt edited accordingly. – Loewian Sep 11 '15 at 3:16
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For a child of chinuch age (let's say .. 7, 8, or 9), there's a rabbinic obligation to give them an otherwise-real mitzva.

For a three-year-old, there's a meta-obligation to raise them in such a way that they'll be ready for mitzvot later on. If a plush lulav helps that, then why not?

A pasul lulav is a bit trickier as people may confuse it with the real thing.

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