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15.08.2014
You might not remember being five-years-old, but The Secret Life Of 5 Year Olds reveals it's actually far more complex than you might think!Following on from last year's hit show, which gave a fly on the wall glimpse at life for four-year-olds, this year's heartwarming series follows four, five and six-year-olds as they socialise with each other - and it's as amusing as you'd imagine. When the five-year-olds come back in tonight's episode, after two weeks apart, Alfie and Emily are both overcome with excitement and run towards each-other crying 'I Love You!' in a ridiculously cute moment.Alfie likes Emily so much he keeps surprising her with pecks on the cheeks. Another cute pairing are Beatrice and Elvin, who decide to "make a Minecraft world" and write sweet letters saying good-bye. A new television series uses hidden cameras to lift the lid on the tempestuous social lives of four to six?year-olds.
You smilingly scan the groups, slowly at first, then more rapidly, trying to make out your cherubic four-year-old.
My instant reading of the situation was that she was sad and lonely and had been ostracised by the other children (no prizes for guessing the contents of Mummy’s psychological baggage). There was no rational basis for my conclusion, but I remember the rapid succession of sympathy (poor lamb), shame (what was wrong with her?), rage (what was wrong with them?) and finally guilt (what was wrong with me?). It was just a moment in the course of a six-hour day, but the disconcerting reality is that once our offspring begin nursery or school, they are entering a world beyond our control and to which we can never be privy. As they cross the threshold into the joys and tears of friendship, peer pressure and sharing (and, hopefully, caring), wouldn’t it be fascinating to view these milestones through a child’s eye? That is exactly what the makers of a new Channel 4 series, The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds, have done. And despite that unwieldy title (the pilot episode was called The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, but for the series the age range was extended because children make huge leaps in understanding and awareness between four and six) the result is appointment television.
Using cameras hidden at the youngsters’ eye level, producers have been able to gain a unique insight into the crucial – sometimes tender, often brutal – peer group interactions that teach, influence and shape our children forever. During filming, children of the same age, who had never previously met, gathered in a school assembly hall that had been converted into a play area.
The set-up was more benign Big Brother than Lord of the Flies: two teachers were always present, usually in the background, to gently intervene – or represent a higher court of appeal when climbing-frame disputes could not be settled by natural justice. In one scene, a rigged gumball machine full of sweets is placed in the room with orders not to touch. When an adult questions them, the four-year-olds, who have not yet learnt to lie, automatically tell the truth and blame one little girl who was egged into turning the handle.
By comparison, the six-year-olds cooperate in concocting an elaborate story of how, by accident, the machine was tipped over. Observed fly-on-the-wall-style like this, the complexity and sophistication of their interactions is very striking.


We see children arguing or wrestling over toys: as a parent it would be natural to intervene, but in the sequestered world of the playground they have to – they need to – resolve their own differences. In the course of an hour’s film there is more persuasion and coercion, tale-telling and retribution than a Jacobean revenge drama.
In those circumstances they need adult input; not to wade in and make things better, but to give the child the support and encouragement to develop their own strategies.
By the age of five, children are developing a strong sense of one-to-one friendship, but the downside is that they live in emotional chaos because they are constantly making up and breaking up with each other. In one episode, Tia, bossy and always in charge, is left distraught when Charlotte tells her “I love Lola more” and walks off, arm in arm with the less challenging Lola. On the friendship front, Jack runs short of vocabulary and speaks with his fists instead, which does him no favours.
Given that peer acceptance is the gateway to most human endeavour and very often happiness, those roller-coaster hours even the littlest children spend engaged in group dynamics are hugely important. Kilbey describes the series as offering viewers “a magical window” onto a place and space previously hidden from adult eyes. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form. The pair invented their very own game called 'Rolling Disease', which is essentially rolling down a hill screaming.
Exasperated, Emily tells the group "that's the fourth time he's done that." Alfie is delighted with himself.
Parents are advised to contact their GP with any concerns and their GP can make a referral for further assessment and support as needed.
But for sheer solar plexus impact, it’s hard to beat the moment when you peer through the nursery school railings at the laughing, shouting, jumping, bumping hordes of children. Amid the joyful hubbub and the ring o’ roses and the playing nicely, your red-faced Horrid Henry is engaged in a furious dispute over who knows what, and your smile shatters into a million bewildered disappointments. Made in the same spirit that brought us Seven Up!, Michael Apted’s extended project for Granada Television, which has traced a group of children since 1964, and Prof Robert Winston’s BBC One series Child of Our Time, this is groundbreaking stuff. Child development specialists including Prof Howard-Jones watched the action live, in a monitoring suite, and provided commentary and insights. And as the cameras recorded their fledgling friendships and burgeoning empathy, the footage veered from hilarious to heart-rending.
It is designed to spill its contents if tampered with, and inevitably none of the children can resist.


A couple of negative encounters can knock their confidence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour. Similarly, when the five-year-olds lick a chocolate cake left temptingly on a table, they claim a giant bird flew down and ate it.
By the age of six, children have a greater grasp of the adult world and they will refer to subjects they have heard their parents talking about, such as sport or even immigration. It’s a rare privilege; your son might be shouting in the playground, but had you paused longer you might have witnessed resolution and peacemaking. But hand on heart, having now seen what goes on in the playground, it might be better if it stayed in the playground. And had I been able to peer into my daughter’s head when I saw her standing alone, I might have understood that she wasn’t lonely but self-reliant; not rejected, just bored of the game. Channel 4’s series focusing on 4, 5 and 6 year olds is therefore fascinating, as its group of subjects get older and older. The Secret Life of 6 Year Olds continues the show’s winning blend of cute antics, surprisingly honest observations and amusing conversations. When the group is asked to vote for the best, he starts to understand why the girl he painted is upset.
One boy, who grew up wearing shiny shirts on stage, testifies loudly to a crowd, while his dad tries to sell DVDs in the car park outside. Obscenely rich people, who pay through the nose for outrageous (and outrageously expensive) food.
It’s hard to know whether the programme is meant to be celebrating the audacious cuisine or laughing at the swine on screen.
But with Tracy-Ann Oberman’s narration over the top, the parade of excess becomes wonderfully grotesque. However, this is an independent publication: we take care not to let commercial relationships dictate the editorial stance of content or the writing staff. Sign up to the UK's only VOD newsletterNever miss a Netflix release: keep up-to-date with the latest news, reviews and what's coming soon.Never display this againSign me up!



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