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 49
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 network 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 release 18 July 1966 (1966-07-18) – present
External links
Production website

Play School is an Australian Logie Hall of Fame-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. 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 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, 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)


Logie nominations and awards[edit]

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 Pre-School 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
2015 Play School Favourite Things - Songs and Nursery Rhymes From Play School Nominated

AIMIA nominations and awards[edit]

Year Nominated artist and works Award Result
2014 ABC4Kids Play School Play Time Best of Tablet - Entertainment [7] Won

DVDs and VHS tapes[edit]

Some animations were revived in VHS and DVD such as The Black Cat by Barbara Frawley. Some animations were ported before retiring.


  • All Together Show/At The Zoo (1985,1991)
  • Special And Concert - (1986)
  • Hats (1984)
  • The Road Show - (1991)
  • Meets the Orchestra - (1992)
  • Out And About - (1993)
  • On the Move - (1997)
  • Dinosaur - (1994)
  • Everybody Sing - (1995,1996)
  • "Everybody Sing Favourites" - (2001)
  • Sing Along (1998)
  • Nursery Rhymes - (2001)
  • Meets the Orchestra & Out & About - Revived(2000)
  • Australian Animal Stories And Songs - (2000)
  • Live In Concert - (2003)


  • Nursery Rhymes - (2003)
  • Meets the Orchestra and Everybody Sing - Revived (2006)
  • Arts and Crafts - (2012)
  • Once upon a time(2011)


  • 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)
  • Once Upon A Time (2015)


  • Big Ted (teddy bear)(1966-)
  • Little Ted (teddy bear)(1966-)
  • Hamble (plastic doll) (1966-1993)
  • Jemima (rag doll)(1966-)
  • Humpty (white egg-shaped toy with eyes, resembles Humpty Dumpty)(1966-)
  • Slush (toy pig)
  • Maurice (teddy bear)(1987-)
  • Meeka (plastic doll(1993-)
  • Jim (plastic doll)(1980's-2000's)
  • Scrap (toy dog)
  • Diddle (toy cat)(1966-)
  • Fergus (toy frog)(1994-)
  • 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)(2011-)
  • 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,[8] 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.

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.[9]


  • "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"
  • "One First Time (tune: One Last Time by Ariana Grande)*"
  • "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"
  • "Make That Basket Stronger (tune: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson)*"
  • "Share it Maybe (tune: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen)*"
  • "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"
  • "Here is the Sea"
  • "Hickory Dickory Dock"
  • "Dino Stomp"
  • "How many people live at your house"
  • "In the Summertime"
  • "Dear Past Wife (tune: Dear Future Husband by Meghan Trainor*)"
  • "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"
  • "Where Have I Been (tune: Where Have You Been by Rihanna)*"
  • "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"

Theme song[edit]

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."

Logo history[edit]

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.[10]


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. ^ Leroy, Sabine (4 April 2014). "20th Annual AIMIA Award Winners Announced". Australian Interactive Media Industry Association. Sydney: AIMIA. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Brenna outs herself as show's star". The Daily Telegraph. 25 March 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Play School lights up internet with accidental bong". SBS News. 9 Oct 2015. Retrieved 9 Oct 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Video on YouTube
  11. ^ Video on YouTube
  12. ^ Video on YouTube
  13. ^ Video on YouTube
  14. ^ Video on YouTube
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw Byrnes, Holly (25 November 2015). "Feeling old? Brace yourself, because ABC Kids favourite Play School is turning 50". News Corporation. News Corp Australia Network. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  16. ^ Fairfax Media (10 February 2015). "Eddie Perfect joins the Play School team". Fairfax Media. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Presenters". ABC Kids - Play School. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c "Play Schooling for 45 years". 19 July 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 

External links[edit]