The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds

This programme, on Channel 4, was recommended to me by a friend and I thought it was something worth sharing. As primary teachers we will be expected to teach some children as young as 4 years old, therefore it is important that we understand the stage of development they are at when they start school.

This episode shows how from a young age children are already influenced by gender. When asked to pick their teams for the bean bag race there was a clear divide between the boys team and the girls team. This game also shows that boys at this age are very competitive and sometimes bend the rules to win, whereas the girls see the rules as very important. Some of the boys also became aggressive and upset when they weren’t chosen as team captain. This shows how boys and girls think in different ways and why it is important to create different learning environments to suit everyone.

Another point that is raised in this episode is that some children are still facing language barriers at the age of 4. This can be as simple as not knowing the right word to use in a situation and can become very infuriating for the child. This is an important point because, as teachers, it is essential to be patient, especially with the younger children who may struggle in this way.

An example at the opposite end of the scale is when you get a child who avoids social interaction and finds comfort in objects and numbers. The child in this episode was thought to perhaps be on the autistic spectrum, as he showed  great interest in areas that others might not e.g. buses and found it difficult to socialise with the other children. It is important to realise that not all children will feel comfortable in social situations and that being in a classroom situation is actually really difficult for them. Flexible lesson plans are vital to suit the needs of specific children in your class so that they all feel comfortable in their learning environment.

It was very interesting to observe another child try and bring the child who isolated himself out into the playground with the other children. He had decided that this boy would be his friend and that he was not going to give up. This particular child is being brought up by parents who often talk about and value love. This was obvious when he was the only boy who showed sympathy towards the girls when they lost the bean bag race. At this point it is important to note that children all come from different backgrounds and so will behave in different ways. Although they are all the same age, some children can be seen as more mature or developed than others due to their home circumstances.

To follow on from this point, the episode showed how having siblings can influence a child’s behaviour. When it came to sharing toys, the children with siblings were able to make compromises whilst the only child was seen as bossy. This is because the only child is not used to sharing with other children and so has to learn that this is important. This can result in arguments among the children but it is important to let them learn how to solve their differences through discussion and reasoning.

A further point that is highlighted is that young children get upset very easily. They find it hard if someone tells them that they like someone else more than them or if they are not allowed to join in someone’s game. This is where, as a teacher, it is important to listen to the children because although it may sound silly to you it means a lot to them.

It is important to note that most children start school when they are 5 and so it can sometimes be a challenge for the 4 year olds to keep up. This is why it is important to remember that within a year group there will be a mix of ages and abilities to work with and plan lessons for.

4 thoughts on “The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds

  1. M MackieM Mackie

    A really good post and a brilliant show! I am actually in the process about writing my own post about it also! It was really interesting to see how important language is to the development of social interactions and relationships. Although I must admit that most of the children on the show had EXTREMELY good communication skills. Not sure it was a 100% realistic representation of the majority of Early Years settings. Nevertheless, looking forward to the rest of the series!

    1. Rachel Billes Post author

      I will have a read of your post. I think it really showed how some children are more capable of expressing how they feel than others and was amazed by how advanced some of the children were!

  2. Jessica Murray

    Hey Rachel,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and watching this tv programme. I wasn’t aware of it so thanks for sharing! I think you’ve reflected well on the points raised in the programme and have related it to teaching. I am looking forward to the rest of the series now and will look out for anymore posts you write about the show 🙂

    1. Rachel Billes Post author

      Thank you Jessica. I’m glad you enjoyed the episode as much as I did. I think there is so much we can take away from programmes like these and I am looking forward to the next episode, which I think might be available after today.


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