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Play School (Australian TV series)

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4.3/10 TV

Written by  Henrietta Clark
First episode date  18 July 1966
7.8/10 IMDb

Genre  Children's television
Presented by  see Presenters
Play School (Australian TV series) tenrandomfactscomwpcontentuploads201402Play
Theme music composer  Richard Connolly (lyrics by Rosemary Milne)
Opening theme  "There's a Bear in There"
Ending theme  "There's a Bear in There" (instrumental)
Awards  Logie Awards Hall of Fame, Logie Award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Children's TV
Networks  Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC Kids, ABC2, ABC
Cast  Justine Clarke, Jay Laga'aia, Alex Papps, Rhys Muldoon, Karen Pang

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Play School is an Australian educational television show for children produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is the longest-running children's show in Australia, and the second-longest-running children's show worldwide, after Blue Peter.


Play School (Australian TV series) Play School Home ABC KIDS

An estimated 80% of pre-school children under six watch the programme at least once a week. It is screened four times each weekday on ABC Kids, at 6.00 am, 9.30 am, 12.30 pm and 3.30 pm (from 7 July 2014) and twice daily each weekend at 9.30 am and 3.30 pm.

Play School (Australian TV series) Play School 50 ABC KIDS

In 2006, Play School was admitted to the Logies' Hall of Fame. The program celebrated 50 years of broadcasting in 2016. Many of the presenters remained with the series for lengthy periods, including Don Spencer (31 years), Benita Collings (30 years), John Hamblin (29 years), Alister Smart, (27 years), Noni Hazlehurst (23 years), John Waters (19 years) and Jan Kingsbury (15 years). While the show is written by preschool education experts, the presenters are all trained actors or musicians who can connect well with the target audience.

Play School (Australian TV series) Play School About ABC KIDS

Play school australia songs compilation

Play School (Australian TV series) 1000 images about Birthday Playschool on Pinterest Cakes

Play School began production on 18 July 1966 (three years before Sesame Street), and was based on a British programme of the same name. The first episode began transmitting that day, as the programme went out live. It has been produced continuously from this time. It has also launched the careers of several Australian actors and television presenters. Diane Dorgan and Don Spencer are the only regular presenters to appear on both the British and Australian versions, although Lorraine Bayly appeared in September 1972 as a guest storyteller on BBC's Play School. It was admitted to the Logies' Hall of Fame on its 40th anniversary in 2006, in recognition of the strong influence the show has had on at least three generations of Australian children. Play School was the third show to enter the Hall of Fame in its own right, after Four Corners (1992) and Neighbours (2005). It was also the first children's show inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Play School (Australian TV series) Play School ABC TV Ruben Meerman

During the presentation of the Logie Awards, a package showing memorable scenes from the show throughout its history was shown, before notable presenters (from past and present) came onto the stage with some of the favourite toys from the show. After these presenters accepted the award, the audience then joined them for a stirring rendition of the Play School theme.

In 1992, a through-the-windows segment featured an early performance by the Australian children's musical group The Wiggles, performing the songs "Get Ready to Wiggle" and "Rock-a-Bye Your Bear" at a day care centre.

On Monday 4 July 2011, Play School updated its opening titles using a combination of stop motion and computer animation with a new arrangement of the theme song sung by presenters Jay Laga'aia and Justine Clarke.

In 2016, Play School celebrated 50 years on the air and had a month of celebrations.

50th Anniversary Play School Celebrity Covers

To mark this special occasion, from 4 July the program presented a series called Play School Celebrity Covers:

On 18 July at 6:30 pm ABC also broadcast a special 50th Anniversary Play School Celebrity Covers Special that featured Hamish & Andy singing "There's a Hole in my Bucket"; John Hamblin, "I'm a Little Teapot"; Dan Sultan, "The Wheels on the Bus"; Molly Meldrum and Charlie Pickering, "Nursery Rhyme News"; Delta Goodrem, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" & "Moon Moon"; Benita Collings & Don Spencer, "Teddy Bears Picnic"; Josh Thomas, "Ning Nang Nong"; Annabell Crabb and Leigh Sales, "Singing in the Kitchen"; Guy Sebastian, "Singing in the Rain"; Magda Szubanski, "Old Mother Hubbard"; and You Am I, "One Potato, Two Potato".


The format of the show is activities, songs and games with either host passing back to each other at the end of their segment, and frequently joining each other in activities. Each day the presenters look at the calendar to find out which day of the week it is, read a story, and look through the windows. From 1976 to 2000, they had a rocket clock which was shaped like a rocket and a flower clock which was shaped like a flower from 1966 until 2000. Until 2000, the windows looked almost exactly like their British counterparts with a few slight differences. They changed the background behind the windows from black to white at the end of 1967 and they then changed it to light blue in 1985. In 1987 Play School had a mild makeover for its 21st anniversary on air; there was a mild cosmetic revamp to the set, with a new set of opening and closing titles with a new version of the theme song sung by presenters, Philip Quast and Jennifer Ludlam; the windows also changed to look like to ones used on the British version of the show, but this change was not well received and the windows reverted to their old style by 1988, which remained until the major 2000 revamp.

In 1992 there was a set revamp with new shelving and coloured tree shapes in the background; this change was done about midway through the 1992 production season, with earlier 1992 episodes retaining the older 1980s set.

Every week there is a common theme running through the programme that the actors reflect upon during the episode; themes include Dinosaurs, Opposites, Zoo Animals, Food, Clothes, Games, Art, Hair, Hats, Shapes, Road Safety and vehicles. Each theme (or block of five episodes) were repeated twice a year on average for a period of six to seven years, before it was recycled and reused in new episodes. As funding was limited, only 45 new episodes were made each year, which means that nine weekly blocks shown each year were new episodes, the rest repeats.

In 2000, the show had a massive revamp, with the rocket and flower clocks and the three windows put in storage in favour of a newer style Play School. The main clock was now simply called the Play School Clock, which was controlled by one of the presenters standing at the top of the clock and turning a winding device, which caused the clue to the story to slide down a slippery dip. That was soon replaced by the Hickory Dickory Clock which featured clockwork resembling the "Hickory Dickory" nursery rhyme. That was soon replaced by the Train Clock which resembles a train station with a clock above it. The windows were also heavily changed. They were now built into a massive rotating prop which was built underneath the clock (shown one week) and 'controlled' by one of the presenters pulling a lever back and forwards. The windows (now including a diamond window) would spin around and would slowly be eliminated as the window they would look through until they got to the fourth window and the camera would slowly zoom in and fade out into the fill. The order in which they appear is Square~Diamond~Round~Arched~Square. That was soon replaced by windows with animation where Jemima stands next to the round window, Little Ted stands next to the square window, Big Ted stands next to the diamond window and Humpty stands next to the arched window and the window chosen goes through to pre-recorded footage.


The program had a musical director, who served as a pianist who played live music to accompany the presenters on each episode. Occasionally the pianist would make an on-camera appearance, one of the more well known being the late Warren Carr, who would serve as musical director for over 20 years. The pianists who worked on Play School over the years are:

  • Bill Antman (1966–1972)
  • Warren Carr (1972–1993)
  • Judy Bailey (1970s–1990)
  • Max Lambert (1991–1999, 2004)
  • Elliott Wilshier (1994–1999)
  • Penny Biggins (1991–94)
  • Paul McDermott (1991–94)
  • Lindsay Partridge (1994)
  • Peter J Casey (1996–2004)
  • Ron Creager (1998)
  • Rob Eastwood (2000) – after revamp
  • Peter Dasent (2000–current)
  • Brian Castles Onion (2003–04)
  • Franky Valentyn (2000s)
  • ARIA Awards

    Best Children's Album:


    From the inception of the programme, the producers of Play School have made efforts to promote equality, playful education, and a love of learning in its audience. Working on Play School has come to be considered an unusually demanding and important job for some actors, because they feel they are becoming part of a generation of children's lives and providing a foundation for learning things that will last for life.

    Play School's stated philosophy is to encourage a child 'to wonder, to think, to feel and to imagine'. The duo (sometimes a trio when joined by hearing impaired actress Sofya Gollan) of presenters (now almost always a male-female pairing, but sometimes it is two females or two males) address the child directly and personally, so that every child watching the show feels that they are spending time with two people they know and can trust.

    Into this relationship are woven the stories, songs, and activities that form the fabric of Australian children's culture.


    On 31 May 2004, a segment was shown showing what was taken by the public to be two lesbians taking their child and her friend to an amusement park. A little girl, Brenna Harding, narrated the clip, stating "My Mums are taking me and my friend Merryn to an amusement park." The clip was raised as controversial by sections of the media, and three federal ministers expressed dislike over the screening of the clip. The ABC responded however, saying that "Play School aims to reflect the diversity of Australian children, embracing all manner of race, religions and family situations." The producers of the segment also said the segment showed the girl being accompanied by her birth mother and her step mother (hence "two mums") and they believed most people would automatically assume the same.

    A 2013 segment showed Alex Papps constructing some kind of contraption which involved a straw inserted through the side of a plastic bottle, which was then filled with hot water, accidentally resembling a bong. This controversy became viral again in 2015, when the segment was replayed.


  • "The Play School Theme Song"
  • "Paint a Rainbow"
  • "I Can Run As Fast As You"
  • "Skidamarink"
  • "My hat it has three corners"
  • "Put your finger on your nose"
  • "This little girl"
  • "The Black Cat" (Note: this was Blacky's first animation; the singer was Barbara Frawley (1980–1992)) (started in 1980)
  • "Take you Riding in my car" (started in the mid-1980s)
  • "On the Ning Nang Nong" (started in 1987)
  • "Standing on one leg"
  • "Australia is a big land"
  • "Wiggly woo"
  • "Zoom"
  • "Hey Diddle Diddle"
  • "How do you feel today"
  • "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain"
  • "Der Glumph went the little green frog"
  • "Bananas in Pyjamas"
  • "Crazy Crazy Conga"
  • "Splish Splash Splosh"
  • "Rock-a-bye your bear"
  • "Little Peter Rabbit"
  • "Upsey down town"
  • "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear"
  • "Dingle dangle scarecrow"
  • "Sing a Rainbow"
  • "Five Little Ducks went out one day"
  • "Five Grey Elephants"
  • "I Like to Sing"
  • "Here is the Sea"
  • "Hickory Dickory Dock"
  • "Dino Stomp"
  • "How many people live at your house"
  • "In the Summertime"
  • "Changes, Changes, Everywhere"
  • "Doe a Deer"
  • "Dragon song"
  • "Open, Shut Them"
  • "Walking in the City"
  • "We're Going to the Zoo"
  • "Feathers, Fur or Fins"
  • "The Wheels on the Bus"
  • "Chicken Talk"
  • "I Like Peace, I Like Quiet"
  • "I'm so hungry"
  • "It's fun to make things"
  • "There were 10 in the bed"
  • "Everybody's got a little rhythm"
  • "3 Jellyfish"
  • "Cuddles"
  • "The Egg Song"
  • "The Speckled Frog Song"
  • "They're Digging a Hole in the Road"
  • "Ain't it Great to be Crazy"
  • "If all the world were paper"
  • "And we walk and we stop"
  • "Put a stripe over here"
  • "Running to the corner"
  • "Hurry hurry, drive the firetruck"
  • "I can do this"
  • Theme song

    The theme song, "There's a Bear in There", was composed by Australian composer Richard Connolly, with lyrics by Rosemary Milne.

    "There's a bear in there,
    and a chair as well.
    There are people with games,
    and stories to tell.
    Open wide, come inside;
    it's Play School."

    Recently remixed by Andre Butterworth aka Copycatt as the winner of the Triple J Play School remix competition which, along with two other remixes by KLP and Jondrette Den respectively, appeared on the Play School album Famous Friends: Celebrating 50 Years of Play School.

    Logo history

    Play School has had a number of openers and logos throughout its long history. Originating as simple animations with vocals from select presenters, the logos and their respective openers have evolved over the many years of the series. The most recent logo, introduced in 2011, features an opener made entirely of stop-motion animation with vocals by presenters Justine Clarke and Jay Laga'aia.

    Current presenters

  • Simon Burke (1988–2007, 2013–)
  • Sofya Gollan (1991–)
  • Karen Pang (1998–)
  • Justine Clarke (1999–)
  • Rhys Muldoon (1999–)
  • Andrew McFarlane (2000–)
  • Jay Laga'aia (2000–)
  • Leah Vandenberg (2000–)
  • Teo Gebert (2003–)
  • Alex Papps (2005–)
  • Abi Tucker (2009–)
  • Luke Carroll (2010–)
  • Emma Palmer (2011–)
  • Rachael Coopes (2011–)
  • Jonny Pasvolsky (2011–)
  • Zindzi Okenyo (2013–)
  • Michelle Lim Davidson (2013–)
  • Eddie Perfect (2015–)
  • Takaya Honda (2015–)
  • Miranda Tapsell (2016–)
  • References

    Play School (Australian TV series) Wikipedia