If you found yourself, as I did with my wife and two boys, at the Downtown Chatham Centre on the Saturday before Family Day in February, you may have come across a lot of jigging, jumping, and jiving going on. In the mall’s food court, directly outside the entrance of Ella Minnow Pea toy store, there were two free concerts at 12:00 and 2:00 starring the energetic trio of characters from the CBC show JiggiJump. Chatham was lucky enough to be part of the JiggiJump Sport and Fitness Fest during a mall tour throughout Ontario.
The male and female stars of the show, David and Judy, along with their colourful kangaroo friend, JJ, put on an interactive show of musical adventures that get kids moving. JiggiJump is a fitness movement for children that started out as live presentations in schools in 2006 before becoming a television series on CBC in 2013. In a promotional video on Youtube, Judy explains the program by saying, “JiggiJump gets kids to be active in a very simple way. It just uses play and it’s fueled by imagination and by really fun music.”
My two boys, Ethan (four) and Jonah (two), were just the right age to get in on the action amongst a crowd of local children pressed up against a stage being entertained in fun ways to promote healthy living and physical activity. Colourful costumes and catchy music attracted the eyes and ears of the young audience to the stage and the energy of David and Judy kept them enthralled. The activities on stage made the connection between fun and healthy living by incorporating stretching, cardio workouts, and cool down exercises. There were barely any kids in the crowd not moving along to the peppy music. Along with running in place, the songs had the kids mimicking bicycle riding and bouncing on pogo sticks. When David came into the audience at one point, a stream of kids followed him around like the Pied Piper. They are doing everything right to keep the kids motivated to exercise right along with them, all the while just seeming to have fun.
Interspersed between the active parts of the show were narrative segments that talked about burning energy through exercise and replenishing the body with fluids and healthy food. At one point, JJ the Kangaroo was doing his best to hide a chocolate bar out of David’s reach while Judy asked the children to yell out their favourite healthy snacks to replace the candy. All parts of healthy living are incorporated into their overall message including the health of the Earth; they have songs with an environmental angle, such as the role of precipitation and condensation in the water cycle when it rains. The songs are well-conceived for this dual purpose of exercising the body and mind at the same time.
As much as Ethan and Jonah enjoyed participating in the action-packed dancing on their own, Ethan kept looking at me to make sure I was acting out the movements also, so I tried to keep up. And then they hit the jackpot of hilarity when their mother got dragged up on stage with some other parents to take part in a version of The Hokey Pokey with David, Judy, and JJ. The humiliation of their mother was well worth the enjoyment they got out of her being on stage. When she got off stage, they both ran to her and gave her a hug. Jonah said, “That was cool dancing, Mom.”
David reminded the kids to continue their dance moves at home with their parents by watching their show on CBC, or they could even do it with a CD of their music. Dave added, “But you can’t buy our CD today because we’re going to give it to you for free!” The CD, called Healthy Earth Healthy Me, had all the songs, and many more, that the kids danced to at the free concert. I thought it was a great promotional tour that came to Chatham – the kids and parents were involved together in the live demonstration of the show, we learned about the show to continue watching on television, and we got a free CD of the music. It was a great set-up in the mall, it was well attended, and other local community partners, the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit and the Y.M.C.A., were enlisted to set up booths around the stage to promote their parallel message of healthy living.
On the way home, I told Ethan and Jonah if they liked the live show, not only could we listen to the same music on our new CD, but also watch them on television. Recently, we’ve seen some TV characters – The Wiggles, Toopy & Binoo, The Imagination Movers – that have taken their shows from the small screen to the stage. They both always got a kick out of seeing the characters outside of the television, but this would be the first time seeing them live first and finding the television equivalent later. Ethan’s response was, “Maybe we can watch the show and they will jiggjump out of the TV and eat our healthy food, because I think they know we have healthy food in the house.” At least I had proof that, amongst all the exercise he got, he had been listening to their lessons as well.