Play School (Australian TV series)

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Play School
Play School logo (2011-present).png
Play School logo (since 2011)
Genre Children's television
Written by Henrietta Clark
Presented by see Presenters
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)
Country of origin Australia
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 46
No. of episodes 4,516 (approx.)
Executive producer(s) Claire Henderson
Henrietta Clark
John Fox
Virginia Lumsden
Jan Stradling
Producer(s) Allan Kendall
Henrietta Clark
Ros Lawson
John Fox
Tracey Ellison
Wendy Gray
Sophie Emtage
Location(s) Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Running time 25 minutes
Production company(s) Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1966–present)
Original channel ABC
(Mornings: 18 July 1966 – 2 May 2011)
(Afternoons: 18 July 1966 – 31 January 2014)

(Mornings: 2005–2011)
(Afternoons: 2005–2011)

ABC Kids
(Early Mornings: 5 May 2014-present)
(Mornings: 2 May 2011–present)
(Afternoons: 2 May 2011–present)
Picture format 4:3 (1966–2003)
16:9 (2003–present)
Audio format Stereo
Original run 18 July 1966 (1966-07-18) – present
External links
Production website

Play School is an Australian Gold Logie award-winning 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.[1] An estimated 80% of pre-school children under six watch the programme at least once a week.[2] It is screened four times each weekday on ABC2's ABC4 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 began production on 18 July 1966 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. Don Spencer is the only presenter to appear on both the British and Australian versions. 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 in 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 is also the first children's show inducted in the Logie Hall of Fame.

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 Play School theme song sung by presenters Jay Laga'aia and Justine Clarke.[3]


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 1970 to 2000, they had a rocket clock which was shaped like a rocket and a flower clock which was shaped like a flower. 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.

Flower clock

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 will reflect upon during the episode; such themes were 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[a] 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 would have a pianist who would play live music to accompany the presenters on each episode; occasionally the pianist would make an on-camera appearance. The pianists who worked on Play School over the years are:

  • Warren Carr (1972–1993) - The longest-serving pianist on Play School
  • Judy Bailey (1970s–1990)
  • Max Lambert (1991–1999, 2004)
  • Paul McDermott (1991–94)
  • Elliott Wilshier (1994-1999)
  • Peter J Casey (1996-2004)
  • Penny Biggins (1991–94)
  • Lindsay Partridge (1994)
  • Ron Creager (1998)
  • Rob Eastwood (2000) – after revamp
  • Peter Dasent (2000-current)
  • Brian Castles Onion (2003–04)


Logie nominations and awards[edit]

Most Outstanding Children's Program

Year Nominated artist and works Award Result
1992 Play School Most Popular Children's Program Nominated
1993 Play School Most Popular Children's Program Nominated
1996 Play School Most Popular Children's Program Nominated
1998 Play School Most Outstanding Achievement Children's Television Won
2004 Play School Most Outstanding Children's Program Nominated
2006 Play School Hall of Fame Won
2014 Play School Most Outstanding Children's Program Nominated

Aria nominations and awards[edit]

Best Children's Album:

Year Nominated artist and works Name Result
1995 Play School Oomba Baroomba Nominated
1997 Play School Play School in the Car Won
2000 Play School Hullabaloo Nominated
2003 Play School Hip Hip Hooray Nominated
2011 Play School Let's Play Together Nominated

DVDs and VHS tapes[edit]

VHS (1981-2008) 27 years[edit]

  • All Together Show/At The Zoo - (1985-1994) longest VHS due to sale copies again 9 years
  • Special And Concert - (1986-1990) 4 years
  • Hats - (1984-1991) 7 years
  • "Sing Song" - (1989-1995) 6 years
  • The Road Show - (1991-1996) 5 years
  • On the Move - (1997-2002) 5 years
  • Meets the Orchestra - (1992-1998) 6 years
  • At the Beach - (1993-1997) 4 years
  • Out And About - (1993-1998) 5 years
  • "Sing Along" - (1998-2002) 4 years
  • Dinosaur - (1994-1998) 4 years
  • Everybody Sing - (1995-1999) 4 years
  • "Everybody Sing FAvourites" - (2001-2004) shortest VHS 3 years
  • Nursery Rhymes - (2001-2005) 4 years
  • Meets the Orchestra & Out & About - Revived(2000-2005) 5 years
  • Australian Animal Stories And Songs - (2000-2004) 4 years
  • Live In Concert - (2003-2008) final VHS 5 years

DVD (2003-present) 11 years[edit]

  • Nursery Rhymes - (2003–present)
  • Meets the Orchestra and Everybody Sing - Revived (2006)
  • Arts and Crafts - (2012–present)


  • Hey Diddle Diddle (1976)
  • Hickory Dickory (1978)
  • Humpty Dumpty (1981)
  • Wiggerly Woo (1984)
  • There's a Bear in There (1987)
  • ...It's Play School (1991)
  • The Best of Play School (1993)
  • Fiddle-Dee-Dee! – Nonsense Verse From Play School (1994)
  • Oomba Baroomba (1994)
  • Play School Favourites (1996)
  • Play School in the Car (1997)
  • Hullabaloo (1999)
  • Favourite Play School Nursery Rhymes (2002)
  • Hip Hip Hooray (2002)
  • Play School Sing-A-Long Songs (2004)
  • Let's Play Together (2011)
  • Play School 45th Anniversary Collection (2011)
  • Big Ted, Prince of Bears (2014)
  • Favourite Things - Songs and Nursery Rhymes from Play School (2014)


  • Big Ted (teddy bear)
  • Little Ted (teddy bear)
  • Hamble (plastic doll)
  • Jemima (rag doll)
  • Humpty (white egg-shaped toy with eyes, resembles Humpty Dumpty)
  • Slush (toy pig)
  • Maurice (teddy bear)
  • Meeka (plastic doll)
  • Jim (plastic doll)
  • Scrap (toy dog)
  • Diddle (toy cat)
  • Fergus (toy frog)
  • Sam the Lamb (toy lamb)
  • Banana (toy banana, see also Bananas in Pyjamas)
  • Daisy (toy cow)
  • Henny Penny (toy hen)
  • Goosy Lucy (toy goose)
  • Kim (plastic doll and Lisa's twin brother)
  • Lisa (plastic doll and Kim's twin sister)
  • Darcy (toy donkey)
  • Henry and Henrietta (mice)
  • Troy and Tony (twin teddy bear)
  • Owl (toy owl)
  • Tippy (toy duck)
  • Mukundan Jr (toy lion)
  • Fido (toy dog)


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,[7] narrated the clip, stating "My Mums are taking me and my friend Merryn to an amusement park." The clip was raised as controversial by 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.


  • "The Play School Theme Song"
  • "Paint a Rainbow"
  • "I Can Run As Fast As You"
  • "If you're happy and you know it"
  • "Skidamarink"
  • "My hat it has three corners"
  • "Put your finger on your nose"
  • "This little girl"
  • "The Black Cat" (Note: it was Blacky's first animation of all so far. The singer was Barbara Frawley (1980–1992).) (started in 1980)
  • "Taking 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"
  • "Do your ears hang low"
  • "Wiggly woo"
  • "Zoom"
  • "Hey diddle diddle"
  • "How do you feel today"
  • "She'll be comin' round the mountain"
  • "Galumph went the little green frog" (started in 1990 or 1989)
  • "Bananas in Pyjamas" (started in 1992)
  • "Crazy Crazy Conga"
  • "Splish Splash Splosh"
  • "Rock-a-bye your bear"
  • "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
  • "Little Peter Rabbit"
  • "Upsey down town"
  • "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" (started in early 1985)
  • "Dingle dangle scarecrow"
  • "Sing a Rainbow"
  • "Five Little Ducks went out one day"
  • "Five Grey Elephants"
  • "I Like to Sing"
  • "The Tingled Tangled Scarecrow"
  • "Here is the Sea"
  • "Hickory Dickory Dock"
  • "Dino Stomp"
  • "How many people live at your house"
  • "In the Summertime"
  • "Popcorn"
  • "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"
  • "Chicken Talk"
  • "I Like Peace, I Like Quiet"
  • "Warm Kitty"
  • "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"

Theme song[edit]

The theme song 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.

Introduction and logo history[edit]

Play School has had a number of introductions and logos throughout its long history.

  • The original black-and-white introduction used from 1966 until circa 1975 was a simple animation with the words "Play School" in black before opening up like a blind to reveal a two-storey house with four windows and a door. A man sings via voiceover each line and the camera zooms into each of the four windows as the theme song is sung - one line per window - with each of them revealing items to describe each line. The camera would then cut to the whole house and the door would open as "Open wide, come inside, it's Play School" was sung, and the camera zoomed into the first scene of a particular episode.[8]
  • The introduction that had been used from circa 1975 to 1986 (possibly earlier) featured a logo of a yellow silhouette of a house with the words "Play School" written in red. It would then fade out to a two-storey country-style Australian home and would zoom into each of the four windows as the Play School theme song would be spoken, one line for each window, with each window revealing a photograph of an item appropriate to each line. The picture would then zoom out and the "Open wide, come inside. It's Play School" lines would be sung as the door would open and the camera would zoom into the first scene of the programme.[9]
  • The introduction used from 1987 to the late 1990s features a screen covered in multi-coloured tiles that would fall into place. The tiles would then fold away and reveal a picture of a house. During the subsequent lines, the picture would turn to reveal an appropriate picture for each line. The picture would then turn to reveal a door which would open back onto the multi-coloured tiles as the viewer would zoom in. Several of the tiles in the middle of the screen would flip to reveal yellow ones with each letter of "Play School" on them in black. The screen would then fade out to the first scene of the programme.[10]
  • The introduction used in the 2000s featured two balloons, one red and one blue, twirling around. The picture would then zoom out to see Little Ted holding the balloons and dancing around. Jemimia would appear from behind a tree with a gymnastics ribbon. They would then hold hands and skip towards Big Ted and Humpty playing with a purple balloon during the lines "There's a bear in there. And a chair as well." They would all hold hands and dance around in a circle during the line "There are people with games", they would break apart and run as a group during the line "And stories to tell". They would then be seen running up a short flight of stairs and into a red door during the line "Open wide". Little Ted would gesture the viewer to come in during the line "Come inside", at which point he would also run through the door. The screen would then fade out to the Play School logo made of multi-colored tiles on a sky blue background. The tiles would then flip over and disappear and the screen would fade to the first scene of the programme.[11]
  • The introduction used in the 2010s features one made entirely of stop-motion animation and vocals by presenters Justine Clark and Jay Laga'aia. The introduction would open onto the "Hickory Dickory Clock" (its namesake taken from the similarly named nursery rhyme) where the cat would chase the mouse around the clock. The cat's tail would hit the windmill which would the turn to blow a nearby handing watering can over to water a pot of flowers sat on by Jemima. The flowers would grow with her sitting upon them. A butterfly would the pass by and sit on a coat hanger which would cause a small ball to bump Humpty off of a pile of books and land on a drum, which would cause a drumstick to hit an adjacent box that would release Little Ted on a rocketship. During the line "There's a bear in there", Little Ted would flu around some planets. During "And a chair as well, he would parachute out of his rocketship and land on a ruler see-saw which would launch Big Ted into the sky during the line "There are people with games" and into a boat sailing on book page waves during the line "And stories to tell". He would sail past a small yellow treehouse, whose door would open during the line "Open wide" to reveal Scrap. During the line "Come inside", the screen would raise into the sky, and during "It's Play School", a number of cubes with the same colours as the 2000s Play School logo would drop down. They would the bounce back up and the screen would fade to the first scene of the programme.[12]

Logo gallery[edit]


Current presenters[edit]

Former presenters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The clocks and windows were subsequently sent to the National Museum of Australia.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ Aedy, Richard. "Talkback: 'There's a bear in there', 45 years of Play School". Radio Interview (Talk back radio). ABC Radio National. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  2. ^ ABC Brochure 2003
  3. ^ "Two New Presenters For Play School's 45th Birthday Celebrations". 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Rocket Clock from Play School with dioramas and their components". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Flower clock from Play School". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Square, arch and round windows from Play School". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Brenna outs herself as show's star". The Daily Telegraph. 25 March 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Video on YouTube
  9. ^ Video on YouTube
  10. ^ [1] Video] on YouTube
  11. ^ Video on YouTube
  12. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]