All my kids are getting for Christmas is cardboard boxes – I refuse to buy pricey toys, they can use their imagination
A MUM-OF-TWO has revealed she isn't buying her kids any Christmas presents this year, as her son's making his own gifts out of other people's rubbish.
Former teacher Polly Aktar, 28, doesn't want her kids to be spoiled brats so she's doing a cash-free Christmas using waste cardboard.
Kids Idris, four, and Ilyas, six months, use their daily walks to the park to find their "toys" for the day – picking up cardboard boxes chucked away from corner shops or in neighbours' recycling bins.
Clever Polly, from Camden, London, says her tip provides hours of entertainment – and means she saves hundreds on Christmas.
Speaking to Fabulous, she says: “I know many people will find the idea of not spending any money on your kids' gifts and giving them broken down cardboard under the Christmas tree shocking, but for me it’s perfectly normal.
“Since lockdown started my husband Hasam, 30, and I have taught our son to quite literally think outside the box."
Polly's cardboard creations have seen her go viral on Instagram, with thousands of mums begging for tips.
She says: “This year I am not buying presents for the kids. It’s cardboard and sellotape for them, their eyes will still light up.
“This isn’t about being skint, obsessed with money saving or being selfish, it’s about teaching our kids how to use their imagination so they're not spoilt.
“When I tell people I’m not buying the latest must-have toys, most are shocked – until they see what the kids are getting instead."
This year I am not buying presents for the kids. It’s cardboard and sellotape for them, I don't want them to be spoilt
Polly taught Idris her savvy ways during the first lockdown, when she created new toys and games every day – without spending a penny.
She says: “We collect cardboard from local shops, supermarkets and recycling bins – it's all free.
"We wipe it down and dry it out so it’s clean and ready to use.
"Our local shop owners even ask to see the pictures of what we have made; they love the fact we used their throwaway boxes.”
For Christmas, Idris asked for a Lego parking garage – which his mum says "would have cost a fortune".
Similar Lego sets sell for between £150 and £300 new – but clever Polly found a picture of the multi-storey car park and created it herself from cardboard.
She started with panels of cardboard, drew and cut out sections with her son's help, then together they assembled the car park with tunnels and roads.
Over the years, I noticed Idris would play with toys for a while and lose interest. With cardboard, he never loses interest because we can constantly change it
She says: “Idris played with it for weeks. When he wanted an addition, we simply added extra levels or more roads.
“Then we turned it into a racing circuit using scissors and tape."
The pair also created a cardboard kitchen, using old crisp boxes from their local supermarket, complete with a stove hob and cupboards.
They made London's iconic Tower Bridge from cereal boxes to mark a trip to the capital, something which is still standing today.
Idris even has his own RAF plane made from cardboard and old newspaper and a cardboard 'play shop'.
Polly says: “I made Idris a working dustpan and broom completed with brown paper bristles and he loved the fact it worked as well.
“We created Christmas decorations like cardboard snowflakes too.
"Idris also loves dressing up and cardboard is hard wearing and long lasting.
“We've made a robot costume, a cardboard shield, RoboCop, a rocket ship, police car and the Stick Man outfits.
“I am from a family of five children so I learned how to be thrifty.
"My parents didn't buy us many toys but they would give us boxes and craft items from an early age, we’d use them to make our own games.
"It’s something my husband did as a child as well, it taught us both the value of making your own fun.
“As a teacher, I learnt how much kids loved being shown how to turn a basic box into a game or a toy – it can provide hours of fun.
"My time is the most valuable gift I can give Idris."
Polly thinks shop-bought toys can be restrictive, whereas cardboard encourages them to really use their imagination.
She says: “Cardboard gives children the freedom to create and make mistakes.
"It's helping them problem solve while having fun too.
"Idris always tells me what he wants to make. Some days, he just wants to smash the box flat and that's OK too. I let him be in control and express himself.
"After we make something, we'll keep it for a while and let Idris add to it or make changes whenever he wants. That way, he's constantly learning.
“I think at times we all forget how much children love spending quality time with parents, it makes them feel special.
"Kids love to copy their parents but I don't want to fork out on a toy cooker or café, I'd rather make it from cardboard.
“This Christmas, Idris said he wanted an Inspector Gadget hand, so I made it myself.
"I know he is going to love it because it works and he can control it, it didn't cost me anything.
“My kids are not toyless. They get lots of great toys and gifts from generous grandparents and relatives.
"But over the years, I noticed Idris would play with them for a while and lose interest.
"With cardboard, he never loses interest because we can constantly change the toy.
"When my son realises how much effort goes into making a toy, he values it more and he's learning about recycling at the same time.
"This Christmas, parents will be spending thousands on toys.
"But I can't think of anything worse than dragging a baby around the shops to get 'must-have' toys.
"It's just spending unnecessary money and I want my son to learn about taking care of the environment.
"My son doesn't have an iPad and tells his dad and me off every time we look at our phones.
“I don’t want him to be spoiled or assume he will be showered with gifts.
"I think some parents make a rod for their own back by over-spending.
“Throwing lots of money at Christmas gifts will only put you in debt and make your kids expect it all the time.
"Give Idris a box and some tape and he's thriving. I think more people should try it, don't throw away the boxes those expensive toys come in.
"I don't want to be preachy, I just love our approach. Not buying my children anything for Christmas is the ultimate gift."
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