Veteran Play School host Benita Collings has revealed her concerns over Aussie kids glueing themselves to screens.
Veteran Play School host Benita Collings has revealed her concerns over Aussie kids glueing themselves to screens.

Play School host: My concerns over kids and TV

Exclusive: She's the Play School host who entertained Australian children for three decades.

But despite making a living from having their eyes glued to the television, Benita Collings has said she hold serious concerns about kids having too much screen time.

"It's not so much TV these days, but rather, the iPad that is huge with kids," Collings told News Corp.

"My concern - and I can be shouted down for this - if a child is so connected to that, where's the connection with human beings?

"And with the reality of life rather that goes on rather than what's on the that tablet; I guess only time will tell what impact it has."

Former Play School host Benita Collings. Picture: Supplied
Former Play School host Benita Collings. Picture: Supplied

 

Collings first auditioned for Play School in 1966 and joined them in 1969. Picture: Supplied
Collings first auditioned for Play School in 1966 and joined them in 1969. Picture: Supplied

Razor-sharp Collings, 79, has stayed busy since stepping away from the world of Big and Little Ted, pipe-cleaner, paddle-pop crafts and storybooks 21 years ago.

Despite her lengthy tenure, she explained there was no tidal wave of emotion once the cameras stopped rolling on her final day.

"It wasn't, 'oh my goodness I'll never do this again, oh woe is me'. It was none of that. It was just moving on," she said.

She first auditioned for Play School in 1966, but things didn't go to plan.

"Embarrassingly, I didn't really know my script properly and I couldn't get the gig," she said.

"Two years later, apparently on the strengths of my storytelling, I was invited to audition again and was taken on board."

Collings said she hadn’t learned her script properly when she first auditioned for Play School. Picture: Supplied
Collings said she hadn’t learned her script properly when she first auditioned for Play School. Picture: Supplied

 

John Hamblin and Benita Collings. Picture: Supplied
John Hamblin and Benita Collings. Picture: Supplied

While she wasn't on set for Play School - which was only about 10 days a year, with 45 programs split between five couples - Collings starred in myriad of soap operas and serials, including Homicide, Matlock Police, and A Country Practice.

She recalls plenty of laughs on set, where on one occasion, a baby goat joined her and fellow long-term host John Hamblin before things took a humorous turn.

"I had it sitting on my lap... and suddenly I felt this wet warmth. In the next and last segment I was standing up being an ice cream, and I had this huge wet patch all over my pants," she said.

On another occasion, a budgerigar died on set.

"There were two budgerigars and everything went fine during the rehearsal. Then come the recording, it got to that segment and one of them was dead on the bottom of the cage," she laughed.

"So I think it was Noni (Hazlehurst)... glued its feet on the swing, and then made the cage gently move, so the swing moved too and so did the bird. So we got around it that way."

Collings on set in 1988. Picture: Supplied
Collings on set in 1988. Picture: Supplied

 

Australian actor John Waters (L) and Benita Collings (R). Picture: Supplied
Australian actor John Waters (L) and Benita Collings (R). Picture: Supplied

Collings also said despite her heyday being in a less progressive time, she couldn't remember an occasion where she felt she had been treated different to a male colleague.

"I've never encountered anything like that in all my working life," she said.

Collings has also made a couple of comeback cameo appearances on Play School, which she'd happily do again.

Play School (left to right) Phillip Quast, Trisha Goddard, Benita Collings, George Spartels and Angela Moore in 1996. Picture: Supplied
Play School (left to right) Phillip Quast, Trisha Goddard, Benita Collings, George Spartels and Angela Moore in 1996. Picture: Supplied

 

Some of the cast from Senior Moments, John Wood of Blue Heelers, Benita Collings of Play School and Max Gillies from The Gillies Report pictured last year. Picture: Richard Jupe
Some of the cast from Senior Moments, John Wood of Blue Heelers, Benita Collings of Play School and Max Gillies from The Gillies Report pictured last year. Picture: Richard Jupe

The Sydneysider starred in Senior Moments last year - a theatrical revue about older people and their dealings with young people - which toured across the country for four months.

She said it was "a lot of fun", but also tiring.

But she's not slowing down.

"I'm alive, I'm well, I'm healthy; so I'm ready to do whatever comes along if I like it," she said.

"I've always gone that way. If something doesn't appeal to me, I'll say no."

And for those wondering, there's one Play School soft toy that Collings likes above all others.

"Big Ted. I just love bears," she said.

Is there a notable Australian you're wondering what happened to? Get in touch at david.aidone@news.com.au


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