Children’s tzitzit come in several different varieties: traditional wool tallit katan, traditional cotton tallit katan, cotton with silkscreen designs for tykes, traditional wool children’s tallit, mesh tallit katan and undershirt-style tallit katan. Be aware that although strictly speaking the tzitzit are the strings and the garment they are attached to is called a “tallit katan,” people often refer to the garment with the tzitzit simply as tzitzit. Thus although tzitzit strings are invariably made of wool, when someone refers to “cotton tzitzit” what they really mean is a cotton tallit katan garment with wool tzitzit tied on.
Wool tzitzit on young children is relatively rare. Smaller sizes include 2, 3 and 4. They come either with black striping along the front bottom, or white striping.
Cotton Children’s Tzitzit
Far more common is the traditional cotton children’s tzitzit garment. One of the big advantages is that it is lightweight and inexpensive. Since children’s tzitzit often gets grimy, dingy, tangled, mangled and/or torn in a relatively short period of time (so would your tzitzit if you spent a large portion of your day on the floor), you can stock up on several and replace them fairly frequently, or keep several in use so that they last longer. The shipping weight is very low, so you shouldn’t have to pay much for shipping if you order them over the Internet.
Many people opt for mesh tzitzit during the summer, but personally I would not recommend this for halachic reasons. According to many opinions you cannot fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit with a mesh garment if it has more air than fabric.
Another popular option is undershirt style children’s tzitzit. The big advantages are that you can cut down on the number of layers your son wears and since they stay in place better that traditional cotton tzitzit, your son stands a much better chance of keeping his shirt and tzitzit tidy and tucked in.
Cleaning Children’s Tzitzit
Keeping children’s tzitzit clean, especially those worn on a daily basis, can be quite a challenge. For a string of posts on the topic, with a wealth of original tips, including both do’s and don’ts, click here.
If your son is in between sizes, don’t be tempted to move up a size. It is unlikely to last for long and it looks much more tidy if it’s a bit small on him. If it’s too large the tallit katan will be likely to hang out constantly, and looking frumpy in tzitzit is not a mitzvah.
You may find that the knots on children’s tzitzit come loose and the tips of the tzitzit strings unravel. The knots come loose frequently when new. The first few days your child wears the tzitzit, keep checking that last knot to see if it has loosened. Once you tie it snug several times, it will start to stay tied much better. Another solution is to tie the last knot tight and then run a very thin stream of hot water through the faucet and let it run over that last knot for 10 seconds. I have tried this several times and gotten good results.
To keep the tips from unraveling, dab some clear nail polish on the ends of your child’s tzitzit.