NOTE: The following excerpt is from a short series of blog articles I wrote on parenting and early childhood education in 2013.
I am the father of a toddler boy. I am also a musician, and a trainer. So I will admit I grow weary of children's entertainment more readily than most parents. I have few exceptions to this rule, but in particular, the Wiggles hold my interest longer than other children's entertainers. In fact, I...I rather enjoy them. There, I've said it.
All joking aside, it actually makes sense. The four original Wiggles came from a rock 'n' roll background, playing for adult audiences in Australia's pop music scene. Three of them studied early childhood education. So it isn't surprising that their music appeals to kids – and to me. They have a sound formula that helps children retain information for life. Some of their lessons have rubbed off on me, too – specifically, subtle hints for how to teach my son about life. Here are my observations:
The Wiggles' first recording was a project for a college course on early childhood education. They didn't have time to write an entire album from scratch, so they adapted melodies they had written years earlier, and rewrote the lyrics for a young audience. Sure, the melodies were simple, but not condescendingly so. And the songs incorporated syncopation and back-time, devices musicians typically avoid when writing for young children. But the Wiggles' songs resonate with kids. As a parent, I've been tempted too often to “dumb it down” for my son. I think our children are more intelligent than we sometimes give them credit for being. Challenging their young minds whets their appetite for knowledge.
We've known for years that there are three types of learners: visual, auditory, and tactile. Most people tend to favor one or two senses over the others, but lessons seem to anchor deepest when sight, sound, and touch are employed together. The Wiggles effectively use color, movement, and melody to instill their lessons. Specifically, the combined use of solid primary colors, simple dance moves, and rhyming lyrics leave a lasting impression on children. When I want my son to internalize a lesson, I know it will take hold if he can see, hear, and feel it.
Much of the Wiggles' charm is in the way they interact with audiences during their stage shows. They don't just play songs and lecture kids. They dance, they play scenes, they act silly and – dare I say – childish. What they do is build rapport with children by mirroring their behavior. Building rapport with any audience opens their minds to suggestion and prepares them to receive information. So I let my inner child play a bit; I get silly with my son. It brings us closer together, and it helps me communicate with him. Because when the time comes to share an important life lesson with my son, I want him to trust me.
Not every Wiggles song is a life lesson; some of them are just fun. Likewise, every moment spent with my son doesn't have to be a profound teaching experience. Young minds need a respite from lessons, and parents need some relief from the burden of teaching. Sometimes, I just relax and share in the joy of childhood with my son, and even let him teach me something.
Every parent's experience is different. This is mine. What's yours?
TJ Barranger is a branding and publicity consultant in the Baltimore, Maryland area with a background in business communications and online content management. He specializes in assisting small business and non-profit clients. Agree/disagree with this article? Share your comments via e-mail: TJ@TJBCreative.com.