Kate Ritchie hosts the ABC's special Big Ted's Excellent Adventure: 50 Years of Play School.
Kate Ritchie hosts the ABC's special Big Ted's Excellent Adventure: 50 Years of Play School. Contributed

Play School celebrates 50 years of children’s entertainment

KATE Ritchie wants to take you on a trip down memory lane.

But it's not her Summer Bay roots she's celebrating, it's 50 years of Play School.

The Logie-winning favourite on the small screen will present the ABC documentary Big Ted's Excellent Adventure to mark the iconic show's golden anniversary.

"I didn't have to think twice about being part of the documentary," she tells The Guide.

"Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sentimental old thing anyway. I love a little bit of nostalgia.

"I have such a great respect for Play School as a whole. Fifty years of TV is an achievement regardless, and 50 years of children's television is incredible."

The preschool series is a viewing staple for Ritchie's toddler Mae, who turns two next month.

"There's a real purity about Play School," she says. "When I watch Play School with my daughter, in those 27 minutes the world feels as though everything is okay. Everything feels so safe and so secure, and that's invaluable."

Ritchie, who recently released a children's book titled I Just Couldn't Wait To Meet You, has a theory about why Play School continues to thrive after 50 years on air.

The ABC's long-running children's show Play School celebrates 50 years on air in July.
Long-running children's show Play School celebrates 50 years on air this month. Contributed

"My dear friend Alex Papps, who I worked with in the very early days of Home and Away, is one of the Play School presenters and we were chatting about why we're watching it 50 years on," she says.

"Play School has learned to change over those 50 years. It has reflected what's been going on socially... it's such an important part of our culture to see ourselves on screen.

"Play School always has remained current and up-to-date despite its simplicity."

Everyone from the Wiggles, Craig McLachlan and Mickey Robbins to past and present Play School presenters Benita Collings, John Waters and Justine Clarke will appear in the documentary.

"The magic ingredient is the hosts, and we all have our favourites," Ritchie says.

"My daughter's so engaged and loves having those hosts speak directly to her.

"There has been a lot of great casting over the years. In the industry when you talk about it, it's such a great honour to land a gig on Play School."

The ABC has also assembled a slew of well-known Aussies for a series of Play School Celebrity Covers.

Everyone from Molly Meldrum, Dami Im and Delta Goodrem to Guy Sebastian, Kate Miller-Heidke, Katie Noonan, Lee Lin Chin and Magda Szubanksi try their hands at singing, playing and presenting in episodes currently airing daily at 9.30am on ABC Kids and streaming any time on iView.

Big Ted's Excellent Adventure: 50 Years of Play School airs on Sunday at 7.40pm on ABC1.