Nov. 14, 2013 at 11:19 AM ET
Last year, after a long stretch of staying up all night with their 1-year-old son who was having trouble sleeping, Refe and Susan Tuma started to feel guilty that they weren't doing enough fun things for their two older children.
So Susan decided to play a little prank on them, setting up their plastic dinosaur figures in the bathroom sink and putting toothbrushes in their hands.
"When my daughter, who was 4 at the time, came running into our bedroom, she said 'The dinosaurs came to life in the middle of the night and they were brushing our teeth!'" Refe told TODAY.com. "We looked at each other, and we knew we had to run with it."
And so, "Dinovember" was born.
Every night during the month of November, after the Tumas put their children (ages 6, 5, 2, and 1-month old) to sleep, the couple creates a scene with their toys, so that the kids wake up thinking the dinosaurs came to life overnight.
So far, the dinosaurs have started a band, wrapped themselves in toilet paper in the bathroom, broken dishes, gotten into the food in the kitchen, and taken a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy hostage, all under cover of darkness.
To combat their children's skepticism, Tuma says he and his wife have gone to extremes with the pranks to convince their kids the dinosaurs are acting alone.
"A couple days ago, the dinosaurs grabbed the spray paint out of the garage and graffitied the walls," he said. When their 6-year-old daughter told her parents they might need to sell the toys because they were acting so badly, they reassured her. "We said, 'Oh don't worry, they're just dinosaurs, they don't know any better.'"
Tuma admits it can be hard to keep a straight face while keeping up the charade, but that being tired from raising four little kids helps. "When they start asking us questions like that, it does get tough for sure," he said. "They'll be focused on the dinosaurs, and we'll be looking at each other, just like, hand over mouth trying to get out of the room."
"We definitely didn't expect to go from 20 likes to more than 20,000, but we're having fun," he said.
And this year, they're asking other parents to play the same game with their kids.
"We've seen at least 10 families that have posted pictures, and I know there's probably more that I haven't seen yet," he said. "We're getting new posts every minute...And to everyone who says, 'I wish I thought this,' we say, do it and post your pictures! We'll share it."
And the dinosaurs might not be limited to November.
"Last year, the dinosaurs did make a surprise December appearance to cause a little mischief, so we may see them again this year around Christmastime," he said. "The dinosaurs, they don't miss any opportunities to cause a little bit of a mess."
Fans of Dinovember will be happy to know that the tradition is here to stay, says Refe. "As long as the kids are into it, we're into it."