How to Spark Your Child’s Imagination

The official guide to Dinovember

On November 1, kids in more than fifty countries will wake up to find that their plastic dinosaurs have climbed out of the toy box and come to life. Cereal boxes will be spilled, houseplants uprooted, and eggs cracked on the kitchen floor. Everyday childhood will be interrupted by Dinovember.

My wife and I started Dinovember as a way to introduce our kids to the sense of wonder we remember from our own childhoods — to spark something in their imaginations powerful enough to pull them away from the iPad screen and transport them to faraway lands and prehistoric jungles.

This year, we’ve put together a little guide so that anyone who wants to participate in Dinovember can be prepared for their own dinosaur invasion.

A Dinovember Guide

The hallmark of Dinovember is the Mess. Prehistoric dinosaurs were mighty, destructive creatures, and their plastic miniatures are no different. If there is anything in your house that can be spilled, shredded, shattered, or defaced, you can be certain the dinosaurs will try.

Of course, that’s the idea.

NOTE: “Mess” will mean something different in every household. You can have fun with plastic dinosaurs without breaking vases or coloring on walls. So don’t stress! This is about having fun.

1. Kitchen Caper

Dinosaurs love to eat. This is a well-known fact. As such, the kitchen is a great place to stage your dinosaurs’ first mess. All you need to start is a box of cereal (and, later, a broom).

Step 1: Grab a box of cereal.

Step 2: Tear it open — the messier the better.

Step 3: Scatter a bit of cereal on the kitchen or dining room table.

Step 4: Let your dinosaurs climb on, in, and around the box. Maybe give them a few Cheerios to toss onto the Triceratops horns.

We recommend that you leave plenty of cereal left in the box — if your kids are anything like ours, that’s exactly what they’ll want for breakfast.

2. Powder Room Pillaging

If ever there was a room made for messes, it’s the bathroom. Even we humans do unmentionable things in there — imagine the trouble a gang of dinosaurs could cause.

Step 1: Grab a few rolls of toilet paper.

Step 2: TP liberally.

Step 3: Save a couple of rolls for the dinosaurs to use to mummify one another.

Step 4: Place the dinosaurs throughout the bathroom. Maybe bury the stegosaurus, or let the raptor climb up the shower curtain. Toilet paper is relatively easy to clean up, so you might as well let the dinosaurs go a little wild.

3. Ceramic Sacrifice

There are few things in life more satisfying than taking something breakable and hitting it with something blunt.

Step 1: Find an old vase, or a small potted plant.

Step 2: The key here is to find an object your kids have already pretty much broken and let the dinosaurs finish the job.

Step 3: Drop it onto the floor, or hit it with a mallet. (If you’ve never smashed anything with a mallet, we heartily recommend the latter!)

Step 4: Bring out the dinosaurs. Don’t forget to leave one red-handed with the mallet.

4. Writing on the Wall

Sometimes it’s important to allow dinosaurs to express their creative side — even if it means you’ll need a Magic Eraser to un-express it later. (An alternate option is to let the dinosaurs color on sheets of paper and simply tape them to the wall, gallery-style.)

Step 1: Grab the crayon box.

Step 2: Find a clear section of wall. The best spots are over a table or at floor level. Plastic dinosaurs don’t have the best reach.

Step 3: Channel your inner dinosaur and start scribbling.

Step 4: Let the dinosaurs loose. Some might want to draw while others will chew on the crayons, or balance them between the stegosaurus’ spikes.

5. Cardboard Creations

Our dinosaurs have been known to engage in a little role-playing. There’s nothing better than cardboard when you need a castle to storm or a replica of the Tokyo skyline to terrorize. Don’t worry if you’re not the crafty type — these are dinosaurs, so it’s OK to leave things rough around the edges.

Step 1: Find some cardboard. Any kind will do: cereal boxes, moving boxes, shipping containers — whatever you have around. Tape and tin foil might come in handy, too.

Step 2: Plan your creation. Our dinosaurs have constructed a castle, a beachscape, and the surface of the moon. Feel free to build one of those, or come up with your own.

Step 3: This one’s optional, but our kids love it when the dinosaurs get into character. Tin foil is a great all around material — use if for space suits, armor, vehicles, etc. It’s easy to mold and rarely requires any tape or glue to hold its shape.

Step 4: Let your dinosaurs tell a story. Maybe they’re battling a dragon or exploring outer space. Maybe they’re after buried treasure in the air vents. Set the scene and let your kids’ imaginations do the rest.

6. Battle of the Books

Dinosaurs have brains the size of walnuts. This may not be conducive to literacy, but reading isn’t the only thing you can do with a pile of books.

Step 1: Grab some books. If you have a roll of string or twine, grab that too.

Step 2: Scout locations. Bookshelves are the obvious choice here, but chairs and couches work well, too.

Step 3: Pile the books into a wobbly tower, or a loose staircase leading up to the bookshelf or chair.

Step 4: Give one or two of your dinosaurs a book to read, and let the rest climb the pile. Use the string as a climbing rope to assist the dinosaurs, or so that one can rappel down from the top.

7. Dinosaur Dress Up

It’s no secret that kids love to play dress-up. But even the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex likes to feel pretty every now and again.

Step 1: Raid the dollhouse. With a little effort, most dinosaurs will fit into a Barbie dress, or the clothes of a smaller Cabbage Patch-style doll.

Step 2: Find a nice spot for a tea party and gather your props. This could be as simple as a few tea cups or mugs on the dining room table. Bonus points if you’ve got sugar cubes on hands. Kids LOVE sugar cubes.

Step 3: Time to get the dinosaurs dressed. Careful with those seams — even plastic dinosaur claws can snag!

Step 4: Invite the dinosaurs to tea.

Bring a Little Wonder

From dressing up as Santa Claus to acting as the Tooth Fairy, grown-ups have always found ways to inspire a little wonder in their kids’ lives. The fact that Mom and Dad play a part in the mystery doesn’t make this wonder any less real. The imagination of a child is something to be encouraged and celebrated. Sometimes, a few plastic dinosaurs are all you need to get started.

For more Dinovember inspiration, pick up a copy of What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night and visit and @Dinovember on Twitter to join in the fun.

Illustrations by Jeong Hwa Min

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