Press Centre

Planet Child

  • Episode:

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX):

    Wed 01 May 2019

  • TX Confirmed


  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 18 2019 : Sat 27 Apr - Fri 03 May

  • Channel:


  • Published:

    Sun 14 Apr 2019

Watch and embed this video on your website. Simply play and click on the embed icon upper right to copy the embed code.


Planet Child


Series overview


“I know I had more freedom when I was younger but it’s a bit of a different world now, isn’t it?” Claire, mum to Leo, Abi and Harleigh


This brand new, three-part series for ITV presents a bold series of scientific experiments to delve deep into the way children experience life across Britain and the world today. Exploring key areas such as risk-taking, independence, morality and gender awareness in a range of scenarios, Planet Child seeks to further our understanding of children’s development.  


Aged between four and seven years, the children’s reactions to different challenges are tested to offer an eye-opening insight into their attitudes, behaviour and just what they are capable of when left unchecked by parental supervision. 


Planet Child also looks at radically different cultures across the world and asks what they can teach us about the experiences children are exposed to today, in our technologically driven 21st century environment.


Episode 1


In the first episode, twin doctors, Chris and Xand van Tulleken, are inspired by the freedom given to children in other countries. Like six-year-old Michi from Japan, who commutes alone across Tokyo to get to school, and seven-year-old Uuakhuike, from the Himba tribe in Namibia, who uses a machete to gather firewood for his family.  


Michi, who lives in a one-bedroomed apartment with his parents and three siblings, travels across Tokyo by bus, train and foot, battling commuters to get to school.

His mum says: “In Japan we have a saying, ‘Let your beloved child go on a journey.’ To go out on your own is the first step towards independence.”


His dad says: “I worry about strangers approaching him. If he doesn’t get off at the right stop.”


In Namibia, seven-year-old Uuakhuike, who is part of the Himba tribe and lives with his dad, mum, his dad’s second wife and six brothers and sisters, is seen leaving the village to gather firewood. 


In the Himba tribe, children as young as three are taught how to use a machete. Uuakhuike, and his five-year-old brother walk miles from the safety of their village in search of firewood always keeping alert to dangers such as wild dogs and elephants.


With British kids now spending less time outdoors than prison inmates and being heavily supervised most of the time, the doctors create a test of independence for their British Planet Child kids. To see if a group of 4-7 year olds can cross London without their parents, using London transport and take a trip on the London Eye.

Kieran, aged five, and five-year-old cousin Rita live on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales. Whilst they enjoy lots of freedom on the farm and the surrounding land, they have little experience of life outside Yorkshire.


Leo, seven, and his sisters Abi, five, and Harleigh, four, live with their mum, Claire, in Margate, Kent. The girls tell the programme that they have never been more than a metre away from their mum by themselves.


Claire says: “It’s a bit worrying handing them over. I’ve never let them get a bus by themselves.” 


Seven-year-old twins Judah and Darcee live with their parents Tim and Rebecca, and twin brothers in Sussex. Ahead of their trip to London, Rebecca says: “There are times that I’m just not sure that they are savvy enough to push those boundaries themselves. So I need to put that boundary in place. I’ve got separation anxiety I think. It’s a really big deal, it’s London and they’re really little. ‘


Chris and Xand meet the children in a park in London and give each group a map and the instruction that they must find their way out of the park, via the souvenir shop, and to the correct bus stop, where they must catch the right bus to the London Eye.


The special buses are fitted with hidden cameras, and chaperones are around the park and onboard the buses to observe the children, with camera operators keeping a distance meaning that the children are otherwise on their own. 


Chris says: “I think we are going into this experiment with a few different questions, specifically, what are children actually able to do? Can they complete this task, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually? I think we’re also asking what parents can do? Are parents able to just step back and allow this to run?”


As the children set off across the park, Chris and Xand watch footage of them. The twins get lost and walk around in circles. Rita and Kieran are distracted by the play areas and Leo and his sisters make it to the souvenir shop.


Eventually all three of the groups make it out of the park and to the right bus stop, then onto the bus. Unaware of the hidden cameras, the children are observed as they sit on the top deck of the bus and look out of the window. They talk about the buildings, which some of them believe to be palaces, and try to guess where the Queen might be. 


Chris and Xand tell Planet Child that, throughout their bus journey, the London Eye will come in and out of the children’s vision. Will they hold their nerve and stay on for the right stop? Or will they be tempted to get off too soon and risk getting lost?


As the children sit on the bus after almost an hour of being on their own, Xand says: ‘This is one of the difficult bits for them. They’ve got to feel confident enough to stay on for a stop. What I don’t want them to do is get off at Westminster Abbey and start strolling around. It’s going to be difficult for them to manage.”


As the children get more tired, will they be able to complete the experiment and get their trip on the London Eye? 


Produced by The Garden Productions for ITV.