It’s November when toy dinosaurs come to life

You might not believe it, but every November 1 toy dinosaurs from all over the world come to life. For the next 30 days, when their human friends are sleeping soundly, they indulge in all kinds of nonsense. I wouldn’t have believed it either, but in our house our dinos have been a dime a dozen years now. In November, they go into the fridge, they use up all my lipstick, they leave toothpaste marks all over the bathroom.

Our son (now 12) wakes up every morning eager to find out what the dinosaurs did last night. He runs into the dining room, into his grandmother’s bedroom and into the little corner of the veranda where his toys live. “Hush,” he said, before opening the door, wanting to be the first to take a look. Once he realizes the events of the night, he laughs and laughs, shaking his head at stupidity.

Dinovember is a major informal international event with thousands of dinosaur families waking up each morning to find their home in chaos. Kansas-based parents of four, Refe and Susan Tuma, came up with the idea in 2013 to foster a sense of wonder and creativity in their children. In an article on Medium, they said, “Why are we doing this? Because in the age of iPads and Netflix, we don’t want our kids to lose their sense of wonder and imagination. In an age when the answers to all the world’s questions are within reach of the web, we want our children to experience a bit of a mystery. All it takes is time and energy, creativity and a few plastic dinosaurs. Childhood is fleeting, so let’s make sure it’s fun while it lasts.

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Introduced in 2013, the idea quickly caught on and became a fun thing for bullied parents around the world. Private Facebook groups dedicated to November start plans, plots, and purchases months in advance. Lists are established, past photos are referenced, accessories are ordered online. The “laugh” emoji is widely used when members share their dinos’ adventures, as is the “wow” emoji where we are speechless at some of the creativity on display.

While children are understandably captivated by the silliness of it all, it is the engagement of adults that is to be celebrated and marveled at. Among the Tuma, their dinosaurs started out small. They got into the children’s cereal box and messed up the dining table. Within days, however, they had broken eggs open, played in flour, and wrapped themselves in all the toilet paper available. The storylines have gotten a lot more elaborate now, with board games, duct tape, spray paint on the living room walls.

Dinosaurs play Scrabble
(Chryselle D Silva Dias)

In my house, our dinosaurs look pretty innocent, but in November you can’t predict what they’ll do. One year they had a mega-battle with the Transformers. Plastic forks, spoons and straws designed for effective weapons. Another time we caught T-Rex trying to eat the Lego. We regularly find Stegosaurus and Diplodocus in the fridge (and once in the freezer, all frozen, playing Titanic). Last year they dared to sneak into our room while we were sleeping and used my eyeliner to make black whiskers on my face. You can imagine my shock (and everyone’s mirth) when I woke up.

It’s not easy for parents to keep track of dinosaurs and their nonsense to see if they are repeating their shenanigans. Photos help. Lists too. The Dinovembre Facebook community is a constant source of inspiration and last-minute advice. In November, parents all over the world pray that their children fall asleep on time so dinosaurs can do their jobs. The Law of Sod guarantees that this will not happen, however. Tired parents are known to fall asleep before the dinosaurs wake up, resulting in jamming at midnight or before dawn.

Refe and Susan Tuma probably never imagined how much of a viral sensation their dinosaur antics would become. The month of November is now “celebrated” around the world, in homes, schools, museums and hospitals. Many libraries in the United States run month-long dinosaur programs with story time, books on dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, and discussions on climate change. The Tumas have also written three companion books that are fun and full of this aforementioned wonder. The latest ‘What the Dinosaurs Did the Night Before Christmas’ is now in stores. It’s hard not to get carried away by the charm of it all.

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Everyone benefits in November. We have fun, of course, but we also learned a lot about dinosaurs. We read books and watched films and documentaries about creatures. Our dinosaurs are also learning new things. Despite our best efforts, some of our dinosaurs snuck into our suitcases on vacation. Most return, but some go on new adventures like a Parasaurolophus who probably still roams Hong Kong. Last year some dinosaurs were introduced to Thesaurus (not a new species). Others have taken a yoga class to relieve pandemic stress. Have you ever seen a T-Rex make a dog down with those little hands?

Who is the thesaurus

Who is the thesaurus
(Chryselle D Silva Dias)

Some of you might be cynical about this. Why would parents want to do more work for themselves in already busy lives? A lot of effort goes into planning and keeping things fresh each year, but it’s worth seeing that joy, bewilderment, and wonder on little faces every morning. This is especially important in these days of quarantine and confinement when our children have already had to face an incredible year. It brings a bit of magic to my own day, as I laugh with my son and gasp at the ridiculous situations our dinosaurs find themselves in. It is a moment of adventure and lightness, which is not linked to the screen.

The past two years have been difficult for parents and children. The prolonged lockdown, the looming threat of illness, the loss of family members and close friends have taken a toll on our physical and mental health. During the pandemic, dinosaur enthusiasts were particularly worried. What would the dinosaurs do in containment?

It turns out that dinosaurs were more responsible than humans. All over the world, dinosaurs have shown up with DIY masks, covid testing facilities for dinosaurs and other toys, and free vaccinations. They also handled social distancing, as we struggled to stay indoors. We could learn a lot from them. They were just dino moths.

Chryselle D’Silva Dias is a Goa-based journalist.

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