Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds. Episode 1. Channel 4, 2015.

I watched episode 1 of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and there was one incident that has made me feel uncomfortable since watching. The children were involved in a bean bag race. The rules were explained and demonstrated to them and they were told under no circumstance were you allowed to touch the bean bag whilst it was on their head, this was cheating. The children were asked who would want to be team captains. Two of the boys squabbled over this before another joined in. The camera did not show any of the girls volunteering themselves. The teacher chose Charlotte to be the first captain much to Jack’s dismay and he loudly protested. The teacher proceeded to call him forward to be the second, much to Nathaniel’s dismay. Charlotte and Jack went on to pick their teams which predictably amounted to one all girls team and one all boys team. The scientists, Dr Sam Wass and Professor Paul Howard-Jones, state that this is common at this age. The race begins and instantly the boys cheat by holding the bean bag to their heads whereas the girls go slower in order to keep the bag stable. The winners are then announced as the boy’s team. The girls are visibly disappointed and the boys are jubilant in their victory. The girls are then quizzed on what they thought happened. Tia says she believes the girls should have won as the boys cheated. Charlotte is asked who cheats the most and why. She says the boys because they are ‘boyish’. Lola’s response upset me the most as she said that the girls will never win. Boys have bigger brains and girls have smaller.

Later Tia chases Jack round to talk to him about how she is upset that the boys cheated and won and how Theo has said that the girls can win next time. Jack isn’t interested and continues to celebrate the win and tries to ignore her. Tia is persistent and obviously disappointed at his response to her and the injustice of the situation. Jack becomes frustrated with her and begins to growl as his language skills are not as advanced as others in the group. Tia behaviour is then described as unfair by the scientists as it is obvious that Jack is a sensitive boy and he must be frustrated with not being able to communicate his feelings.

The whole scenario disturbed me. After some of my research reading, I have become aware of the vocabulary and they way people speak around and to do with girls and boys. Boys behaviour has often been excused or justified and girls are often apologised for in a way to quieten them. Jack was described as a loveable rogue and Tia was described as confident and that she can be a bit much for people at times. I do not understand as yet to why the boys were allowed to win when they had cheated. Even the scientists describe the boys as finding ways around the rules when the film shows them breaking them, not compromising them. It was not stated that this happened to test the reactions of the children, even so, as it was stated at the beginning of the documentary, this is a pivotal stage of their life, I feel it very unfair that they would allow the girls to see that the boys win regardless of them upholding the rules. I am deeply saddened that one girl at 4 years old believes that boys have bigger brains and this is why they will always win. I wonder how she has come to believe this.

The rest of the programme is touching and enlightening to how friendships are formed and skills are developed through play and personalities are nurtured. I do plan to contact the scientists to see if the way the game planned out was an experiment or was it something that happened naturally at the time.


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