All my kids are getting for Christmas is cardboard boxes – I refuse to buy pricey toys, they can use their imagination

13 mins read


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.

pollyaktar/Instagram

Polly Aktar, 28, from London, isn’t buying her two kids a single Christmas present[/caption]

@pollyaktar

Instead, son Idris will make his own cardboard gifts from other people’s rubbish[/caption]

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.”

pollyaktar/Instagram

Polly is mum to Idris, four, and Ilyas, six months[/caption]

@pollyaktar

Idris wanted a Lego multi-storey car park but his mum made one out of cardboard instead[/caption]

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Polly says Idris appreciates the value of his toys when he’s made them himself[/caption]

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 Aktar28

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.” 

@pollyaktar

Idris’ free mud kitchen was a steal compared to shop bought ones – which cost upwards of £80[/caption]

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Idris loves playing dress up with his mum’s cardboard creations[/caption]

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


Polly Aktar28

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’.

@pollyaktar

Idris has his own RAF plane which he loves playing with[/caption]

@pollyaktar

Idris’ cafe is open for business – using cardboard thrown away from a local shop[/caption]

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Mum made a working broom and brush so Idris can help her clean up[/caption]

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.

@pollyaktar

Idris’ outfits are all made from cardboard too – including this RoboCop one[/caption]

@pollyaktar

His Stick Man outfit was also made from other people’s rubbish[/caption]

“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.”

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Polly says spending quality time with her kids is more valuable than any gift[/caption]

@pollyaktar

This Spider-Man mobile was also made from leftovers[/caption]

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.

@pollyaktar

Polly thinks making his own toys is a great learning process for Idris[/caption]

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She says sometimes he can’t be bothered to make anything – and that’s fine too[/caption]

“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.

@pollyaktar

Idris’ Christmas gift is a working Inspector Gadget hand[/caption]

@pollyaktar

Polly says her kids do get bought toys by relatives – but they prefer cardboard[/caption]

“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.

@pollyaktar

Idris loves getting crafty with his mum[/caption]

@pollyaktar

Idris’ third birthday party was a homemade police-themed one[/caption]

“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.

@pollyaktar

Enjoying ice skating with his mum last Christmas[/caption]

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This Tower Bridge toy was made to commemorate a trip to London[/caption]


“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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