We interviewed Thierry Bourret, Founder of the Slow Toy Movement, Managing Director of sustainable toy company ASOBI and Dadpreneur. Thierry lives in the UK with his wife and son.
Thierry started to think about what toys meant to children like his son when he realised just how badly thought-out and made certain so-called “toys” were nowadays. He decided it was time to make a difference and brought the Slow Toy Movement to public attention with his toy company ASOBI. Truly passionate not just about materials and quality but also about encouraging children to think and explore he collaborates with and promotes high-quality toy makers from all over the world. If you were lucky you might have seen Thierry during the Slow Toy Awards which were hosted in Selfridges recently.
What makes a good toy?
A toy that will last and preferably made of wood. A toy that you find 20 or 30 years later in the loft and reminisce.
Was being a child better or worse when you were growing up?
Better or worse than now? Despite a personal tragedy when I was 10 (my mum died in a car crash) I had a very good childhood. My dad was very busy running a business but we had a loving and caring family around. My grandma was instrumental in my upbringing. She is now 97 and I can’t wait to go and see her for Christmas!
To come back to your question, life was definitely a lot quieter where I was brought up. We certainly did not have all the distractions that the kids have now. TV was at its infancy so we did not spend the whole day glued to it. Playing with friends and interacting was the order of the day. I wish that today’s kids played with each other a little more face to face rather than via a PC link.
How much can parents actually influence their child in the 21st century?
They can make a choice whether to let TV do the baby seating or not. In my opinion, parents have a critical influence on kids until they become teenagers. It is not only down to teachers to instil discipline and education. The parents have a very important role. Kids will be influenced by what they see at home.
What do you think of smartphones and tablets readily available to children?
Not a bad thing! My son Rémi plays with my iPad whenever he is allowed. Time spent on electronic toys is limited and monitored in our house. I am always very careful as of what sites he visits as not everything is appropriate. He knows what is allowed and what is not.
What’s your great inspiration?
I read an awful lot, although I did not complete my 1 book per week challenge in 2012. I read mostly self-improvement, biographies and business books. I take notes and keep nuggets of information and quotes I find. My motto is from George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” And I can be pretty unreasonable!
If there was one thing you could change about the world today, what would it be?
Like a magic wand? I would eradicate greed from the world and make people realise that at some point you can actually have enough money. Greed is what got us in the situation we are in with this recession.
Have you noticed a difference in parenting styles in different countries?
Oh Yes! I have lived in France, UK and Japan. I will always remember, when commuting to work in Tokyo, I saw a 6 or 7 year old child in school uniform going to school on her own. I was shocked! This is fairly normal there.
Tell us a secret about your home town?
I live in a small village called Taplow between Slough and Maidenhead. The next village is Burnham. In Burnham High Street we still have two independent butchers. For a Frenchman food is terribly important and the choice of butchers means that I can find almost any cut of meat I need.
I could also give you addresses of places in Acton where you can find proper sashimi but then that would not be a secret anymore.
What’s the one baby product that was essential in bringing up your son?
The Maclaren stroller we bought and took on planes trains and automobiles around the world when Rémi was small. It is still around and now used by my brother and his kids.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
Unconventional, gregarious, unreasonable and an arrogant Frenchman with a very strong desire to succeed.