The memory of returning to childhood might seem appealing when you’re struggling with bills, a scary boss and worries about your future. That early phase of your life seems easy and blissful.
But watching Channel 4’s The Secret Life of Four Year Olds, you’ll be reminded that early childhood had its own turmoil. As we eavesdrop on a group of kids meeting for the first time, it’s startling to see how many tough lessons they have to learn. Mostly that snitching on people is not as good idea as it might seem. And also that demanding that someone likes you, won’t make them like you. (Yes, there are plenty of adults who still haven’t learnt those lessons…)
Originally a one-off episode which aired earlier this year, the fixed-rig show has now been made into a full series with two episodes about four-year-olds, then the same for five-year-olds and six-year-olds.
There are some moving moments in this first instalment of the series, including a scene where a girl cries at being rejected by her best friend who has met a new girl she brazenly claims to “like more”. But ten minutes later, the tears have stopped and the girls are Friends Forever. Their relationship strife makes life on The Only Way is Essex look stable and undramatic.
But for all the drama, the real hilarity lies in the children simply speaking their minds, unfiltered and unafraid of judgment. In the pilot, which had lots of its fans clamouring for a full series, one young child had RadioTimes.com in fits of giggles for days, when she said into a toy phone, “stop ringing me Richard. You’re not the dad. I don’t love you anymore. I hate you now”. This episode is full of gems like that.
Jack, whose language skills are still weak, gets so frustrated that he just growls like a tiny, tame tiger, while Tia yells after an uncooperative playmate, “I want to talk to you this instant!” Even the psychologists observing the children struggle to keep a straight face. Another boy keeps casually saying “I love you” to everyone he meets (again, not ideal in adult life).
And I know you’re not supposed to have favourites when it comes to kids, but watch out for Tyler, who keeps well out of the boisterous playtime and spends time talking to his dad on the toy telephone. “When you come, can you bring me a sandwich fish finger?”
It’s almost too adorable to bear.
The Secret Life of Four-Year-Olds begins on Tuesday 3rd November at 8pm on Channel 4