How (and Why) to Dye a Barrel of Monkeys

You are no doubt familiar with the classic children’s game Barrel of Monkeys. Here’s how the directions on the bottom of the can describe the gameplay:

Drop monkeys onto table. Pick up one monkey by an arm. Hook other arm through a second monkey’s arm. Continue making a chain. Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.

FOR ONE PLAYER: Time yourself for picking up all 12 and try to beat your best time.

FOR TWO OR MORE: Each monkey left on chain is 1 point. First player to get 12 points wins.

Those instructions “for two or more” aren’t the most exciting game for an adult, especially when you know the simple trick (always pick up the monkeys by their right arm, using their left arm to pick up the next monkey). However, recently one of my friends (I forget who—sorry!) had a cool idea to make Barrel of Monkeys into a better multi-player game for grown-ups:

  1. Get multiple Barrels of Monkeys in different colors, one color for each player.
  2. Pour all the monkeys out on a table, mixing together all the colors.
  3. Everyone tries to pick up their own monkeys at the same time.
  4. Whoever successfully picks up all their monkeys first is the winner.

The only catch is that you can only buy Barrel of Monkeys in three colors today: Red, Green, and Blue. This limits the game to only three players… or does it?

I decided to see if I could make a new color of Barrel of Monkeys using Rit fabric dye to darken the color of one of the three existing colors. Here’s the process I used.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Since I knew I was going to have to use a pretty big pot if I wanted to dye the barrel itself, I decided to use two packets of black Rit. I added hot tap water to my pot, then put it on the stove to keep it hot.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Once the water was almost to boiling, I added both packets of Rit, the monkeys, and their barrel.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Most tutorials on the internet that talk about dying plastics with Rit say to leave it in for 20-30 minutes, but the plastic that Barrel of Monkeys is made out of is especially resistant to being colored, so I left it in there for an hour, stirring frequently.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

After an hour, I took them out, rinsed them off, and let them dry. You can see the result above. On the left is what the monkeys looked like before dying, and on the right is after.

I didn’t think it was working at all during the 1-hour dying process, since the dye solution was jet black and the pieces still looked pretty blue, but as you can see, the monkeys definitely turned into a much darker shade of blue—sort of a teal color.

I deem this experiment a success. I now have four distinct colors of monkeys, allowing me to play four-player rapid-monkey-grab. I may even give it a shot with green and red as well to see if I can get some pleasantly-darker shades of those colors, too. Then we could have six-player monkey mayhem!