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The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds on Holiday review: sort of I'm a Child Get Me Out of Here

The Secret Lives of Five Year Olds Goes on Holiday Tia, Harry, Naomi, Enzo, Jet, Jude, Lola and Layton
The kids are all right … unless octopus is on the menu. The children from the C4 show on their trip to Cyprus. Photograph: Mark Johnson/Channel 4

I’m watching The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds on Holiday (Channel 4) with a five year old and a three year old. Then tomorrow we’re going on holiday. Perfect, maybe we’ll get some tips.

Oh, they’ve got passports (still red, I’m already beginning to feel nostalgic about them). We won’t be needing those where we’re going.

In fact, boys, Daddy’s working. And I don’t want you to get any funny ideas about what holidays mean, that they need to involve aeroplanes, hotels, sunshine, fun, anything like that. Out!

So some of the kids from the popular Channel 4 show are being taken, with their parents, to the Sandy Bay resort in Cyprus. With a lovely pool, water slides, and a massive buffet breakfast with chocolate spread to put on their bread. Mmm, mine would like that (if they knew it existed).

But it’s not all good news for this lot, because they’ve also sent teachers and scientists with them, to set them tasks and then to spy on them. They might think they’re on holiday but actually they’re being experimented on, evilly.

There has been some criticism of that and of the show (the normal non-holiday version of it), most notably from Michael Rosen who says it’s unethical. I thought that was the point of children, to be manipulated and put into situations for the purpose of entertaining and amusing us grownups. And that includes on holiday …

L-R Jet, Lola, Layton and Enzo. The Secret Lives of Five Year Olds Goes on Holiday
What’s buggin’ ya? Jet, Lola, Layton and Enzo inspecting an insect. Photograph: Mark Johnson/Channel 4

Anyway, I really can’t see that it’s a problem here as these children are clearly having the best time, as well as having interesting new experiences. That seems to be the main conclusion of these experiments: that new + family time = a good thing. I’m hoping that might be the case for us, even if it’ll be a different kind of new.

One of the criticisms of the programme Rosen saw was that a kid had been scared by something. Not much fear on show here, apart from of the unknown, more specifically food, more specifically still, octopus and squid. And the way they deal with that – a fun, tasting activity in which they get to take risks and show off – seems to me to be an excellent way of encouraging them to try new things. Make your holiday like I’m A Child Get Me Out of Here, basically. It seems effective, too. “It’s disgusting!” says Layton, of the octopus. “But I did like it.”

Maybe the programme-makers have taken on board some of the criticism because Prof Paul Howard-Jones, the neuroscientist, stresses the importance of framing feedback positively and encouragingly, and that it leads to better learning outcomes.

They organise a birthday party, for Harry, which seems to be a nice thing to do, even if Harry is underwhelmed. They make new friends. And there’s a quiz, about the world (because they’re on holiday), with a winning team, which I’d call competition not conflict.

Although we’re not going to Sandy Bay, I’m getting loads of great ideas for our holiday. We’ll definitely have a competitive quiz night. And a tasting of local delicacies (though I’m not quite sure what they are, something that was originally part of a sheep, probably). I will be providing (mostly) positive feedback, for better learning. And they’ll be some kind of watersports, like maybe fetching it from the stream because the pipes are frozen, like they were last time we went there (pre-progeny) at this time of year. Because this winter we are holidaying in an isolated shack, in north Wales.

This article titled "The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds on Holiday review: at times, more like I'm a Child Get Me Out of Here" was written by Sam Wollaston, for on Friday 29 December 2017 06.30am


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