Who'd have thought that so much time and effort could go into discussing the words Eh-oh! and Big Hug But Teletubbies was so popular with children when it launched that parents and educators were concerned to know whether the show was breeding bad habits.
Teletubbies very often hug each other. They hug because they like to!
Ten years on, experience and research have taught us that the Teletubbies' play-language performs an important role in helping children develop their speech. Rather than simply mimicking the Teletubbies, children are encouraged to join in and play games with words. For children of all abilities, Teletubby language is about learning to communicate with confidence.
This isn't just hindsight talking. The show's co-creator Andy Davenport studied speech sciences before embarking on a career in children's TV. So the development of Teletubby talk came about through a combination of his experience and observing children closely.
"We thought long and hard about the way the Teletubbies should speak," says Andy. "After a lot of thought we came up with a play language based on the early speech of a young child. To small children, Teletubby words carry as much meaning as normal words."
Just because they understand and repeat the Teletubbies language doesn't mean their verbal development will slow down, says Andy. Quite the reverse. "Play languages encourage children to have fun with sounds - and that is definitely something to be encouraged. Children understand the game far better than parents and carers realise when they first see the show."
Most grown ups recognise the benefits of Andy's approach once they have seen how the show brings on their children's communication skills. "We didn't leave anything to chance," says Andy. "Even the use of repetition (Again! Again!) is based on sound principles. From our experience, we knew that simple stories, repeated often, allow children to follow what is happening. While busy adults are always in a rush to move on to the next job, children find repetition reassuring and fun. That's why they watch their favourite DVDs again and again."