Shut the Box is a old-fashioned dice game that is traditionally played with a wooden box filled with numbered, flippable tiles. However, with our printable version of Shut the Box anyone with a pair of dice can play!

## Table of contents

## Shut the Box Printable

For printable instructions and the numbered line game board, fill out the following form and the pdf will zoom right over to your inbox.

## How to Play Shut the Box

First, learn the basic instructions, then read the notes at the end to try out a few variations of Shut the Box.

### Objective

Be the player with the lowest score.

### Materials

- 2 or more players; one player can play as a personal challenge.
- 2 dice
- Printable game board, one strip of the numbers 1-9 per player (
*see notes*) - Marker or tokens (
*see notes*)

### Rules

Roll to see who goes first.

The first player rolls both dice and adds the numbers to get the sum.

The player then takes one of two actions. On the number line, they may 1) “shut” (*i.e. cross off with a marker, or cover the number with a token*) any combination of numbers that add up to the sum; or 2) shut the number representing the sum.

**EXAMPLE: **Player rolls 3 and 5. Since 3+5=8, the possible options are:

- 8
- 1
*and*7 - 2
*and*6 - 5
*and*2*and*1 - 3
*and*5 - 4
*and*3*and*1

Player chooses a valid action, shuts the number(s) and rolls again. He can continue to roll as long as he can continue to shut numbers. When he rolls but has no more valid numbers to shut, his turn is completed.

Once a player has shut numbers 7, 8 and 9, he may opt to roll only one die. Until then, he must roll both dice.

**MORE: **Check out the hub for all our DIY traditional games from around the world.

## Example Play

Player has a 1-9 number line. He rolls a 2 and 5 (*7*). He shuts the 7. The next roll is 6 and 3 (*9*); he shuts the 9. The next roll is 3 and 1 (*4*); he shuts the 3 and 1. The next roll is a 1 and 1 (*2*); he shuts the 2. The next roll is a 5 and 6 (*11*). There is no 11 on the number line so he shuts the 5 and 6. The next roll is 5 and 2 (*7*), since the only numbers still open are 4 and 8, his turn is over and he records his score.

### Scoring

The player's final score is calculated by adding the remaining open numbers on the board. For example, if one player has a 2 and a 3 remaining, their score is 5. If another player has only the 9 remaining, their score is 9.

After all players have completed their rolls, the winner is the player with the lowest score.

If a player is able to shut every number on the game board, they have “Shut the Box,” and are the winner.

**MORE: **Our favorite math games make math practice fun!

## Notes and Variations

As with any traditional game with a long history, Shut the Box has many versions. I always encourage kids and families to explore rule variations to see what works best and how players must adjust their strategy accordingly. The important part is that all players agree on the rules ahead of time!

Try some of the following options:

**Option 1:** You may not shut more than 2 numbers on a roll.

**Option 2: **When a player opts to roll a single die, you must be able to shut the die as shown. For example if you roll a 5 with a single die, you must be able to shut the 5, not a 2-3 or a 4-1.

**Option 3:** For a kid-friendly version, player can use individual die numbers rather than the sum. For example if the roll is 3 and 5 (*for a sum of 8*), but only the 5 is still open, they could shut the 5 without going out. Note that any numbers must match the quantity show on the dice. They could not mark off a 7 just because 7+1 also equals 8.

**Option 4: **This version is known as "Unlucky 7." When a player rolls a 7, their turn is over.

**Option 5: **Traditionally, Shut the Box is played with tiles numbered 1-9. We included a printable version with numbers 1-12 for extended play. Playing with 1-12 is known as "Full House."

**Taking Turns:** Some kids may not have the patience to wait for another player to take all of their rolls before starting their own turn! In this case, instead of playing one player's full complement of rolls at a time, take turns rolling the dice. Each player should still have their own number line game board, however.

**Our family's favorite commercial version of Shut the Box is Blue Orange's Double Shutter**, which has provided us hours of entertainment. When my kids were little, before they could play the game properly, we even used Double Shutter for number recognition and counting practice.

### Alternative Scoring

Instead of adding the remaining numbers, players count the quantity of open numbers squares. The player with the fewest open numbers is the winner. For example, if one player has a 2 and a 3 remaining, their score is 2. But if another player has only the 9 remaining, their score is 1.

Another method of scoring requires playing multiple rounds. Players keep a running score; as players reach a score of 45, they are out. The last player standing wins.

### Alternative Game Board

Instead of the printable game board, players can use a set of standard playing cards. If playing with 1-12, line up Ace through Queen, with Jack and Queen standing in for 11 and 12, and Ace for 1. Turn over the cards to "shut" them. Be sure to use the same deck for these 10 card games ever kid should know!

Of course, you don't even need to print out the game board, simply write the numbers 1-9 on a sheet of paper and cross them off with a marker as you "shut" them!

**Game board tip: **To easily reuse the printable board, instead of crossing out numbers with a marker, use tokens or coins to cover numbers once they have been "shut."

### Strategy

If they don't realize it before they start playing, after a couple of rounds kids will learn that the best strategy is to shut higher numbers as soon as possible. They will need to ask themselves strategic questions. Is it better to cross off an 8 (*a single number*) or a 3 *and* a 5? The answer might not be as simple as it seems!

**MORE STRATEGY GAMES FOR KIDS: **

- Our favorite single player logic games
- Trominoes, a DIY math game
- Nine Holes, a classic alternative to tic-tac-toe

Deanna says

I think there's an error in the part of the directions (see below) where you say "he rolls a 4 and 5 (7). He shuts the 7. I think you meant 9, yes? Just wanted to let you know! Love this game!

EXAMPLE PLAY

Player has a 1-9 number line. He rolls a 4 and 5 (7). He shuts the 7. The next roll is 6 and 3 (9); he shuts the 9. The next roll is 3 and 1 (4); he shuts the 3 and 1. The next roll is a 1 and 1 (2); he shuts the 2.

Erica says

Thank you! It never fails to amaze me that no matter how many times I proofread (and I read this post at least 5 times after I'd "finished" in order to find errors!) that I still miss my mistakes!