It’s not easy getting four kids ready in the morning, so for a long time, Refe and Susan Tuma occupied their children with tablets and TV screens before school. “It was becoming a bit of a crutch,” says Refe, a writer and editor in Kansas City. “We wanted to help them see the real world with sense of wonderment.”
And so, the Tumas have thrown their hats in the ring for coolest parents in the history of parenting with Dinovember: throughout November, it appears that their kids’ toy dinosaurs “come alive” at night and wreak havoc on the house. Food is spilled, objects are broken, and walls are graffitied–but always with a couple plastic dinosaurs loitering around the crime scene. Now the Tumas cannot drag their children away. “They play with the scenes we’ve created, and it lasts for hours before they get tired,” Refe says.
But Dinovember is great for parents as well as kids. It’s helped the Tumas find their inner children and their inner artists. So if you’d like to embark on a Dinovember-style project for your own kids, consider these expert tips:
1. You Don’t Have to Pay for Play. The Tumas haven’t spent a dime on Dinovember. All the props–from the dinosaurs to the cans of spray paint–were already in the house. This forces them to get creative with what’s already available.
2. Make It More Than Child’s Play. Your project may be silly, but it’s still art–and worth no less than that novel you’re writing. “We rarely have time to work on our own projects,” says Refe, whose wife is an artist as well as a full-time mom. “But Dinovember is a way to combine our kids and our desire for creative pursuits.” In other words, if you take your project seriously, it might just provide that artistic outlet you crave.
3. Make (Them) Believe. When the Tumas started Dinovember last year, their oldest child was completely convinced the dinosaurs were real. A year later, she’s wised up. “We can see in her eyes that she knows what’s going on, which is why we had to escalate,” says Refe. And how. He and his wife spray painted the walls. “She knows Mom and Dad would never graffiti the living room,” Refe says. But would a dinosaur? Not out of the question.
4. Make a Mess. Speaking of spray paint, take risks! Defy convention! “Repainting the walls is a small sacrifice to keeping the fun going with our kids,” says Refe. The same thing applies to dirtying the kitchen or breaking common household objects in order to make the dinosaurs appear responsible. Tuma and his wife have found new freedom in their non-adult behavior. “It reminds us that our stuff isn’t as important as our kids,” he says.
The Tumas hope lots of parents will try out Dinovember. Just don’t try to capitalize on the popularity of their concept (over 200,000 Facebook likes and growing). The Tumas have trademarked the name–but not because they’re so proprietary. “We wouldn’t want someone to take it over and use it for commercial purposes that don’t focus on kids and play and fun,” Refe says.