You don’t need to splurge on expensive toys to keep your children happy and engaged, and this London-based mother of two shows a perfect example of parenting done right. Sydney Piercey found a way of balancing today’s need for sustainability and quality time with kids by recycling and repurposing cardboard into fun and accurate everyday household items and interactive toys.

This utterly creative mom started amusing DIY projects as a quarantine activity to entertain kids in the neighborhood when her own children started showing interest as well. She began crafting meticulously detailed replicas of items found at home, such as a fully-equipped washing machine, a dishwasher, a camera, or a laptop. All cardboard boxes that would otherwise end up in the trash became a great material to construct lifelike designs with all the little drawers, compartments, sliding shelves, and rotating knobs.

This playroom has turned into an innovative and interactive way to safely teach the little ones useful life skills from an early age in a playful and enjoyable form. And most importantly, with no damage to the actual household appliances!

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A mom of two found a way of entertaining her kids with toys made out of repurposed cardboard while safely teaching them life skills

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Piercey has crafted a whole playroom with detailed replicas of household items for her kids to play with—here is what she’s made so far

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Bored Panda reached out to Sydney Piercey to find out how she started creating this ultimate playground out of cardboard.

“I’ve always enjoyed creating and making things. The idea of making toys from cardboard came from wanting to teach my daughter how to (safely) use appliances in our home. Children so often find the most mundane of things interesting, they want to play with the washing machine or the toaster, but it isn’t always safe to do so. The ideas often come from what she’s drawn to around the house. For example, after a weekend of her being obsessed with my husband’s record player, I set about making her one from a cardboard box and some loo rolls. Sometimes there are toys that I want to get for her or think she would enjoy, but it’s more fun (and inexpensive) to make them for her first and see if she likes them. Then, if she does, it’s way more special to see her playing with the version I’ve made than a version I’ve bought.”

A washing machine

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Piercey says this creative activity is a great way to reuse leftover cardboard, entertain and teach her kids, and give herself an outlet to relax from daily life.

“I am able to teach my little ones how to use appliances safely, my daughter can mimic me whilst I do chores around the house. Fun for free! I put to use cereal boxes, dog food boxes, loo roll tubes, materials that come and go as usual in our home that would otherwise be recycled. And for me, creating is where I find calm, it’s my way of switching off. Also, the joy it brings me to give my daughter something she loves that I have made myself.”

A dishwasher

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Piercey sets a great example of finding easy ways to a more sustainable lifestyle: “I’ve always been a big lover of nature and the great outdoors. Living sustainably is something I have become much more mindful of and conscious towards since having my children and thinking about what I can do personally to take better care of the planet for them. It’s hugely important to us all as a family to think of our impact on the planet and how we can be kinder and more environmentally responsible.”

She says throwing things out is the most challenging part of the projects: “I see the potential to make things in so many items that I have to be quite strict with myself on what we keep and not become a hoarder.”

A laptop

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

She invited us behind the scenes of her cardboard creations: “Once I decide the item I want to make, I’ll think of three or four ‘features’ I can include that will make it ‘work’ such as a door that opens, or a shelf that slots in, or a lever, or a switch. Then I’ll make the basic shape (I don’t draw anything with pencil as I prefer to be quite free with it) but I will make use of bits of cardboard to cut against (for straight lines) and so on. I will mostly use old cardboard boxes, toilet or kitchen roll tubes, and recyclable tape to secure everything together; and tools-wise, just scissors and a hobby knife. Big projects such as my washing machine, dishwasher, or oven have taken up to two hours to make. My daughter and I love crafting together. The color and corks sorter we made took about half an hour to create, but keeps her occupied for ages. If I can, I will elongate crafts we make together as it’s a lovely way to spend time.”

SLR camera

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

A toaster

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A record player

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A spy kit

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Image credits: sydney.piercey

An iron

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A hairdryer, concentrator nozzle and Afro comb

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She’s also creating toys and interactive games for her kids to play with, such as this caps and corks color sorter

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Her favorite creations so far are the bedtime sticker chart and sticker book for her daughter.

“Both things get used daily to mark her achievements in sleeping well or being kind or thoughtful. I made her an oven yesterday and she loved it, but she’s a big fan of all of my toys and the best person to make for because she’s always so enthusiastic!”

Weetabix box, contact lense box, amazon box and loo roll transformed into a cash register and card reader

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Mario Kart

Image credits: sydney.piercey

Image credits: sydney.piercey

The pandemic became a particularly challenging time for parents stuck at home with their kids, but Piercey put this time to use to get creative and spend quality time with her children.

“For 50 consecutive days in lockdown (except weekends), I did a different theme day for my daughters. We would read, watch, create, and play just based on the theme of the day. Only using books or toys and art materials we had already (although we did borrow from neighbors). It was a wonderful way to make the days exciting and entertaining. They are all saved in my highlights on Instagram if you need some inspiration or ideas of how to use things you likely already have at home for the days ahead.”

Tea, coffee, milk, sugar, cake stand

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A paint palette

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She shared a piece of advice for all parents out there struggling to get by: “Give yourself daily pats on the back—we are all doing incredibly. Seize all the joy you can, be it a coffee in peace, a lie in, bedtime gone smoothly, cuddles with your little ones, their smiley faces about something, anything, and everything. What we are going through is not easy, but we can absolutely do it. Oh, and keep all the cardboard.”

An animal farm

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What’s the weather?

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Lily’s very own laboratory using household materials

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A safari truck

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One mans trash… another man’s treasure chest

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From recycling bin to recycling truck

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A cardboard campsite

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A fairy castle

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Portable foldable ‘days of the week’ sticker book

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Packet puzzles

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