Melissa and Doug Shut the Box Game

Self-Contained Unit Goes Most Places

shut the box game for grandchildren
Grandparents and grandchildren alike will enjoy playing Shut the Box. Courtesy of

It's fun, addictive and educational. What more could a grandparent want in a game for grandchildren? This Shut the Box game by Melissa and Doug will draw in the most reluctant game-player. It's also an old seafaring game, so that's a great excuse for telling your best pirate jokes when you play it.


The game consists of a sturdy wooden box with see-through lid with the numbers 1-9 on flippable tiles.

There's also a pair of wooden dice in a pouch. Because it's Melissa and Doug, it is also well-made and aesthetically pleasing.

How to Play

Shut the Box is a deceptively simple game that calls on some fairly sophisticated skills. The first player rolls the dice, adds them up and flips down any combination of numbers that equals the total. For example, a player who rolls a 5 can flip down the 5, 4/1 or 2/3. That player's play continues until a number is rolled for which no number combination remains turned up. At that point, the player adds up the numbers not flipped down, and that becomes his or her score. Subsequent players must try to achieve a lower score. The real object of the game is to flip down all the numbers and "shut the box," a feat which always results in much celebration and gloating.

There are many variations in game rules. A fairly standard one allows a player to throw only one die once the 7, 8 and 9 are flipped down.

That makes it easier to "shut the box." If the grandkids get tired of the standard play, check the Internet for variations that will make the game seem new again.

Depending upon their math skills, kids from preschool on up can play the game. It's an easy and fun way for them to practice their math skills.

If you go on an extended Shut the Box marathon, you'll actually be able to see young kids improve in their ability to make the basic computations necessary to play the game. Older kids can explore the laws of probability, figuring out, for example, why it's usually best to put down the large numbers first.

Many Ways to Play

You don't have to buy a game set to play Shut the Box. You can play with a piece of paper on which you have written the numbers 1-9, crossing them out as you play, but kids love manipulating the number tiles, and many like the look of the wooden box.

Lots of manufacturers have Shut the Box games available for sale. The Melissa and Doug version is a mid-price choice. It's a good road trip game if you don't mind the slight rattle and clatter of the dice and tiles. Another plus is how quickly a round can be played. If you get into serious play, you'll want to play a multi-round game, with the loser being the first one to reach 100 or a similar number.

Fun Facts

Shut the Box does not appear to be an ancient game, but it has been played for at least two hundred years. It has been popular with sailors and fishermen, so is played in many far-flung locations. It is quite popular in England, where it is often played in pubs, and there are leagues dedicated to play.


The Bottom Line

The grandkids should like everything about this game, but what they'll like most is rolling the right number and getting to shut the box!