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In the Night Garden, Every Parent’s Secret Weapon

Media & Culture

Hannah Bardsley - 7Dnews London

Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:17 GMT

If there is one thing many sleep deprived parents, nannies and child carers can agree on it is that getting a child to go to bed can be the absolute worst. There will be tantrums, disobedience and tears that will break your heart and convince you to let them stay up just a little longer.

In my time as a nanny and a babysitter it is safe to say I consumed an inordinate amount of children’s television. I restricted access to how much TV we watched, because there is sunshine and toys and a hundred other things to do and, frankly, as an adult it can drive you slightly round the bend. But children’s television is also the shining light at the end of a tantrum, or a soothing balm for an overtired child. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s rather entertaining too. 

However, there is one TV programme, one show produced by Ragdoll Productions and CBeebies, the BBC channel created for small children, that is simultaneously one of the most annoying shows to watch and yet the greatest show you can ever sit a toddler or small child in front of. This show is, “In the Night Garden”, or, as your two-year old may call it, “Iggle Piggle”.

The show was first aired in 2009 on March 19th. it ran for two series with 100 episodes in all. The run was successful and reruns continue to be broadcast all over the world.

“In the Night Garden” depicts the adventures of Iggle Piggle, a teddy like creature made from flannel who is never without his red blanket which doubles as a sail, and all his strange friends. Upsy Daisy, a rag doll, Makka Pakka”, another creature made of flannel that can be described as nothing other than “Makka Pakka” because it is the only of its kind and the Tombliboo family, little wooden dolls which have been available at Ikea, out of BBC copyright, since long before the show began.  

They live in the night garden, a beautiful English park and have various mishaps, where harmless things go slightly wrong. There is no talking. Instead, the characters communicate in body language directed to the narrator, hugs and a collection of sighs and oohs. The only voice heard is the narrator, who surprisingly enough is Olivier Award winner Derek Jacobi. If the show sounds like a struggle to watch as an adult that’s because it is. Finding yourself humming, “Yes, my name is Iggle Piggle, Iggle Piggle, niggle, wiggle, diggle,” for the tenth time in a day is not a joyful sensation.

But this is the show to keep around. Why? Nothing will convince a child to go to bed more than Iggle Piggle and his friends. Like a charm a child will watch, laughing and singing but by the end you will find them on the sofa, in the high chair, wherever it is they are watching it, putting their heads down, closing their eyes and beginning to go to sleep.

The show begins sleepily. Derek Jacobi begins the narration over soft music, while a small child lies in bed, their parent tracing soft circles around their hand. We are then taken to Iggle Piggle, with his boat and red sail, who is sailing off to the night garden. Life gets more fun in the night garden, the screen brightens, activities are happening, and it is very obviously daylight. But then, when the day’s adventures are finished it is time to for everyone to go to bed.  

“Goodnight Makka Pakka, goodnight Upsy Daisy.” Jacobi’s voice whispers as each character snuggles into bed. The music begins to slow and the light dims. Finally it is time for Iggle Piggle to go to sleep on his boat too and, while a lullaby plays, Jacobi asks the viewers, “Isn’t it time you were asleep too?”

Turn and look at your child, but quietly so as not to disturb them. As if they are in a trance they will have found something to lean their head on and will be slowly allowing their eyes to close. This is the moment to strike, but quietly. 

“Shall we go to bed?” You may ask them and nine times out of ten they will sleepily nod in reply. Pick them up and take them to their room, place them in bed and what can often be the hardest part of the day is suddenly the easiest.

Of course, you need to prepare beforehand. Make sure their teeth are brushed, they are already in their pyjamas and are ready in every way for bed and off they will go – like magic.