secret world of 4 year olds

Thoughts on the Secret World of 4 year olds

I love documentaries about children and child development..especially the Seven Up series (both the original and the more recent one) and more recent school ones.  The latest documentary was on C4 yesterday, The Secret World of 4 Year Olds.  If you missed it and have a four year old now, or will have one, it’s worth a watch on catch up.

secret world of 4 year olds

The aim was to put a ten four year olds into a ‘nursery’ setting with cameras and watch what they got up to. The children were strangers to each other, and they were filmed at one point, and then six months later to see how they’d changed in their interactions.  We saw them trying to make friends, sharing (or not), and then being ‘tested’ on a couple of challenges to see how the different personalities work.

Having a four year old at the time of watching was interesting.  I think most of the children were a bit older than N, and it’s noticeable how different children of the same age really are.  Maybe having more shows like this would reduce the concerns of parents (and interferring others) about how advanced or behind peers their children are.

I think I was expecting more insight and a longer series than just one show.  We saw the instances that would be expected – children hogging toys, not wanting to share, taking cake when it was left out before being told they could.  But we also saw a confident girl (who I’d call precocious if I knew her) empathise with her new friend who was less confident in singing in front of an audience, and really helped support her.  Much more mature than her age.

I have to say that although I’d love to see how N would react in that setting (I can predict he’d take a while to get stuck in but otherwise would probably be happy enough just mooching with whoever was doing exciting things outdoors), I’d hate to have him on public show for fear of him doing something or saying something that wouldn’t be something I’d like him to do.

There was one child at the beginning who really wasn’t that nice. He took toys off people, wouldn’t share, hogged toys and wasn’t nice to one boy when he wanted to do something else. I’d have been mortified if he’d been my child. But then you never know what they’re really like without you.

N’s day nursery has CCTV, although I don’t get to see it that often and you only get the visuals; when I do, N’s always out of camera sight.  But it’d be great to have a GoPro set up for a day to see what he gets up to and how far he roams (when I get my second fitbit, I’m going to put one in his pocket to see how many steps he does in a day).  It’s a shame they didn’t have personal cameras on the children to map out where they went during the day, but obviously that would have made it less natural.


Obviously we can only hear what our children get up to either from them (‘nothing’ says N most of the time) or from nursery staff.  But you don’t get to hear their little conversations.  I do earwig when N plays with his cousin, and it’s really interesting to hear them chat while they play; it’s not quite the same when they know you’re there, however absorbed they are in their games.

Hopefully they’ll do some more of these shows.  It would be great to see each age to middle primary school age.

Did you see the show?  What do you think your children get up to behind your backs?

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  1. I am with you here. Although I didn’t see it I would hate to see what my children got up to when I am not looking. How embarrassing for the parent of the child who wasn’t very nice! I would dread to know what Pickle gets up to…he is a law unto himself!!! 😉

    1. I know, I’d have been mortified, but you just don’t know what they might come out with when you’re not there to hear it. I know N makes up a lot of stuff, but so far nothing nasty, although he did come home yesterday and tell me a girl had said something to him that wasn’t nice, which was a bit sad.

  2. I watched it as I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. Oh what I’d give to be a ‘fly on the wall’ at their school!
    I was actually horrified at what some of the children were saying / the way they were behaving. A couple of the children were really nasty, beyond that of an average 4 year old – if it was my child I’d be so embarrassed!! There were some lovely children at the nursery too though!

    1. Me too. That bigger child was quite nasty, and some of the girls came out with some classics. They can say some horrible things though, I’m surprised when I hear what some have said.

      I’d definitely be mortified, although I guess the parents did admit they’d been lenient with him.

      1. From the attitude of a couple of the parents, it was almost as it they were proud of being so lenient and thought it was funny in a way! No child is perfect though and I’m sure they all do and say things we aren’t proud of at times!

        1. Yep, I was quite surprised at them admitting that. I know I’m fairly relaxed at home, and about things that don’t matter, but there’s a limit that has to be set somewhere.

        2. I’m not an overly strict parent but there are limits and rules in place. If we don’t teach them right from wrong at this age then the chances are they’re going to grow up thinking they can do what they want, when they want – which isn’t good!

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