Meet the mum bringing nursery rhymes to life: An interview with Fabula Founder Nazneen Yasin
Tell us about your background, what inspired fabula, and how your background shaped your approach?
There are two key points in my life that eventually came together to form fabula. The first was when my daughter Ayra was about 6 months old and I began to look for ways to deepen our bond through talking to her. This is when nursery rhymes were my great find – because not only did I know the words to quite a few nursery rhymes, but the music quickly caught her attention.
The second scenario was when my daughter was about one year old and her peers, who were also quite keen on nursery rhymes were then moving on to watching them on a screen. And it wasn’t necessarily their fault as there was no real bridge between the two stages of singing a rhyme and then watching it. But I was extremely uncomfortable about screen dependency among children and started to look for alternatives to offer her. Quite quickly I realised that while there are some rhyme related products, they’re mainly mechanical music players attached to a toy. There was nothing that actively explored the words, their meaning and the actual story of each rhyme. It was at this point, that I decided to create fabula. It is now my mission to offer young children who like to engage with rhymes, a worthy opponent to digital screen time, while also creating awareness among parents about this available solution, should they be looking for one.
As we all know kids are spending more time playing on devices like tablets and mobile phones. Often starting from a very young age, this has led to a majority of them spending more and more time indoors. Will this have an impact on future generations? Will it stifle their creativity? Are we witnessing the death of physical objects for kids?
Yes, I think so. I have spoken to a set of 100 parents from varying nationalities and my findings showed that almost 45% parents said nursery rhymes were an integral part of the lives of their children between the ages of 0-4years, almost 75% were concerned about the amount of exposure their child had to digital screens and 91% believed that children needed more unstructured play.
Around the same time that I was formulating the idea of fabula, the World Health Organisation made research results public, with specific focus on the effects of screen time on young children. It recommended limiting screen time to an hour a day at the most for children up to the age of 3 and recommended that children spend more time engaging in a variety of physical exercises. Interestingly, at The Toy Fair that year, the British Toy & Hobby Association announced results of a study that found a growing concern among parents on the effect of digital screens on their children. 75% of the 1,500 parents asked, believed that increased screen time was likely to make their children less sociable in the future, 65% were concerned about children being less active and 63% believe traditional unstructured play could be very important for the proper development of their children.
All of this data – both my own, as well as from industry leaders point in the same direction. Excessive screen time adversely affects the physical and mental health and development of children.
Therefore, I do not believe that the trend of handing phones to children necessarily spells the death of physical objects. Children still enjoy physical toys – as can be seen in the steady growth of the industry over the last few years. Additionally, with growing awareness among parents, there are conscious efforts in most households to help children find more productive methods of play rather than consuming content through digital media. So, I have fierce hope that screen dependency can eventually be curbed.
Would you ever incorporate a digital aspect to your toys? (And why)
At the moment, I have no plans to incorporate any digital element into fabula. Though while I campaign for the physical, I cannot shy away from the many benefits that a digital asset might bring. But if and when this addition is made, I can promise that there will be no compromise to our core ethos to create and engage an active mind.
Are there any toy brands that you admire? If so, can you name a few and tell us what you admire most about them?
Yes, I love many! When I found toys again, after becoming a mum, I think I found a fun, playful, uninhibited part of myself that had been dormant for many years. I am constantly inspired by the simplicity and yet the genius of many toys in the market today. I love LEGO for the creativity as well as the analytical skills it encourages. I love Hape toys for going back to basics and reigniting the nostalgia in parents! Melissa & Doug are great in helping with role play and Baby Einstein for the little ones with a tinge of curiosity!
Growing up was there a standout toy that you remember playing with?
Yes! Russian nesting dolls. We got a set for my daughter while visiting Georgia last year and I have to say, I probably played with the set more than she did!
Lastly why should parents buy your toys?
There are a lot of reasons why parents or even friends and family could buy fabula. If they are looking to reduce screen dependency for their children, if new parents are looking for something to help bond with their newborn, if they want their children to develop key early-learning skills and then of course if they want to encourage an inclination towards music among their children. It’s hard to pin down one specific persona for the fabula customer – so I would say, for anyone looking to get their child a toy that is for wholesome, enriching, engaged play, fabula is the answer.