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Wiggles strike a chord with I-Reporters, their children

By Kate Taylor
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(CNN) -- They've sold millions of albums and DVDs and show no signs of slowing. Much more than an overnight sensation like "Tickle Me Elmo," "The Wiggles," have stayed a children's favorite for 16 years.

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Sybil Lane, right, and her family met the Wiggles after Sam Moran stepped into his role yellow Wiggle.

The Wiggles, an Australian band, impart lessons through their songs and performances that some mothers happily admit have helped shape their little ones' views on life.

Sybil Lane says that her 6-year-old son Brendan "has a very positive outlook on life, and I think the Wiggles helped him develop that."

Lane explains that the band members are positive role models who don't wear makeup or dress up. "They are themselves," she says, "and children can relate to them."

Three of the four founding members of the Wiggles met one another at the Macquarie University Institute for Early Childhood Studies in Sydney. They take their influence on their listeners seriously.

One of their campaigns is to teach children the benefits of healthy eating.

That lesson has rubbed off on 4-year-old Jeffrey Thompson, who, according to his mom Krista, drinks only water after hearing the Wiggles song "Gulp Gulp Drink Some Water."

"He drinks milk at bedtime, but other than that, it's only water."

Jeffrey is so enamored of the Wiggles that he has adopted an Australian accent which his mom says is "cute as all heck in a 4-year-old."

Carolina Wiegers says that her 4-year-old son Andrew has picked up some Australian pronunciations, too. She also credits the Wiggles with helping him learn routines and retain lessons. Andrew exercises his memory learning Wiggles dance routines and memorizing songs.

She appreciates the content that her son is absorbing, and likens the Wiggles to "the teacher that wants to do all the cool stuff and has the money to do it." She says that their DVDs and live shows have an instructive atmosphere and "aren't really random at all."

Live shows are an important part of Wiggles culture; Brendan Lane has been to 41 shows. Wiggles parents are "kind of a community. We catch up with each other at shows, and talk almost daily on Wiggles message boards," says Sharon Spray.

Suzy Cato's daughter, Catie, has Angelman syndrome, with symptoms such as impaired speech and development skills.

Cato says that because of her daughter's disabilities, Catie "doesn't really show a lot of preference for things. But when she sees the Wiggles she gets very excited. We're going to go see more Wiggles shows. Its one thing my daughter loves so much, I just want to keep doing it for her."

Catie, who is 16, has met the Wiggles several times because of the band's practice of holding personal meet-and-greets with disabled or sick children.

Jennifer Zink, whose 3-year-old son Max is autistic and also a huge Wiggles fan, has met the Wiggles three times. Zink explains that once The Wiggles meet a child they arrange future meet-and-greets so that they can keep up with children.

Because of this personal contact, many children have developed a strong connection to Greg Page, the original yellow Wiggle. On November 29, 2006, Page announced that he was retiring because of health complications and would be passing his yellow "skivvy," or shirt, off to former Wiggles background dancer Sam Moran.

For Andrew Weigers, the news of Page's departure came as a bit of a shock. His mom Carolina says Sam was so upset about Greg's departure that she almost felt bad for telling him about it.

It's understandable that children developed such an attachment to Page; he was the voice of the Wiggles for so long.

Jenifer Zink describes the first time she and her son Max saw Page perform live. "My son and I both were absolutely mesmerized by his voice, his charisma, his style, and the way he interacted with the crowd. From that moment, I knew that he was something special!"

By many accounts, though, Page's replacement Sam Moran seems to be holding up well as the Wiggles new lead man. "Greg left him some hard shoes to fill," Sybil Lane says, but he seems very natural in that job."

And quite a job it is. Some would say that Wiggles mania has reached fever pitch.

Christine Kielbasa compared watching children react to seeing the Wiggles live to watching the crowd at a Beatles show. "I must admit I was a little excited myself," she confesses.

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Linda Nuzzo saw her first Wiggles show in 2001, in the basement of a small Australian church in New York. "You could almost touch them," she says. "And then to see them perform at Madison Square Garden, it was amazing."

And after all of their success? "They are still down-to- earth, nice people," Nuzzo says. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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