The Wiggles have been entertaining and delighting children for decades. There must be few children’s entertainers who can make the same claim. While the original line-up has changed, their popularity continues and the reason for this is simple. They see things from the perspective of the child. It is the basic tenet that informs their work. Because their performances are developmentally appropriate for their young audiences, they continue to attract and involve those audiences.
Three of the original Wiggles, Anthony Field, Murray Cook and Greg Page met at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where they were studying to be early childhood educators. A common interest in music, together with their professional interest in early childhood, led to them developing a CD of children’s songs that would, they hoped, be a useful addition to those already in the market. At the same time Anthony was involved in a pop band, The Cockroaches and persuaded a member of that band, Jeff Fatt, to be part of the new project. That first CD was an immediate success and led to another and another, to videos, DVDs, television series and live shows that have established the group’s reputation as first class entertainers of young children across the world.
Eventually Greg, Murray and Jeff decided it was time to move away from active performance and use their talents, knowledge and experience to support and foster a new Wiggly line up. Emma Watkins (The Yellow Wiggle), Lachlan Gillespie (The Purple Wiggle) and Simon Pryce (The Red Wiggle), together with Anthony Field (The Blue Wiggle), are upholding and extending The Wiggles reputation. Emma, Lachy, Simon and Anthony and their friends are as appealing to the newer generation of preschoolers as the original Wiggles were to their older brothers and sisters and even, in some cases, their parents! The success of their CDs, DVDs, live performances and television series sees The Wiggles effectively using their own skills as performers to build rapport with children as they extend their knowledge and understanding of those children’s needs and interests.
The Wiggles work continues to be based on current thinking in early childhood development and learning. Children need opportunities to develop a sense of their own identity, to become connected with their world and to contribute to it, to develop a strong sense of wellbeing, to become confident and involved learners and effective communicators. The Wiggles are well aware of these desired outcomes and keep them in mind as they plan and perform.
The Wiggles understand that children learn best through play and seek to provide appropriate frameworks for learning that builds on this approach to learning. They engage children in a partnership and, recognising the importance of pro-social learning, remain vigilant in ensuring that the values they present work for children, not against them. Violence is shunned. Dangerous activities (that children might be tempted to copy) are never modelled. Health and safety issues are important. Helping others is a prominent feature of their work. Supporting and assisting those in trouble is stressed. The contributions of other characters are always recognised and acknowledged. A natural politeness is a feature of all interpersonal interactions. In other words The Wiggles demonstrate the importance of developing and fostering relationships. They, together with families, carers and other significant people, become co-contributors to the lives of children.
The Wiggles appeal is international for they value and respect children. Because the material they present continues to focus so precisely on children’s interests and needs, their success seems well set to continue into the future.
Kathleen Warren EdD, MA (hons) LASA, FTCL, teacher, adjudicator and early childhood and drama consultant and writer for The Wiggles