You may have heard that Playschool is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. I first started watching it with my sons about 30 years ago, and I now often see an episode while babysitting my grandchildren. I like how the format hasn’t changed much – they still make things out of cardboard boxes and have Big Ted and Jemima and they look through the windows and check the time on the Playschool clock. But best of all are the old songs still being sung to new generations of children.
‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’; ‘Open, Shut Them’, ‘Little Peter Rabbit’ and ‘The Ning Nang Nong’; ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ and ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’. Such a list of songs that so many people have grown up with.
And as I hear them, the words come easily and I sing them with gusto with my two-year-old grandson, Ezra. He has a whole list of favourites – not just from Playschool, but also ones that I have remembered and sung to him along the way. As we are driving in the car, Ezra doesn’t like it if the radio is playing music, but he often requests specific songs. He particularly loves ‘Never smile at a Crocodile’ and ‘The Treehouse Song’. There are a couple of A. A. Milne poems set to music, ‘My Favourite Things’ (from The Sound of Music) and I now know and can sing all the words from the Thomas the Tank Engine theme (which is harder than it sounds!)
I love the joy that the singing brings to this small person. He doesn’t care if I sing off key or with a croaky voice or half-remembered words. He doesn’t criticise mistakes or worry if the verses aren’t in the right order. And although he rarely wants to sing along with me, when he’s playing quietly by himself he frequently adapts songs or makes up his own and sings them to himself.
I often come across articles or hear someone talk about finding/embracing my inner child. The part of us that is able to find wonder in our day, to stop and watch a bird in flight or listen to the wind, to respond spontaneously to people and situations. A natural and enthusiastic child within us that can sing out loud without feeling embarrassed, choosing silly or sad or meaningful songs, even allowing us to make up the tune and words if we feel like it.