Three Margate siblings feature in ITV’s Planet Child documentary

Harleigh, Abi and Leo with Dr Xand Van Tulleken filmed for Planet Child

Three Margate children feature in a new ITV documentary which screens its first episode tonight (May 1).

Planet Child examines the effect of location on childhood and identity and looks at how children across various countries are brought up with different levels of freedom and independence.

The documentary, which is in three parts, is hosted by twin brothers and doctors Chris and Xand Van Tulleken.

In it children aged between four and seven years are given a range of challenges, including navigating their way on a bus journey in London, examining what they are capable of without parental supervision.

Margate mum Claire Lewis, 33, and three of her four children were involved in the show.

Leo, Abi and Harleigh, who were seven, five and four at the time of filming, were the largest family group in the documentary. Older sister Leyla, nine, was above the age range for the social experiment.

Leyla, Leo, Abi and Harleigh

Claire says the trio, who are all Holy Trinity pupils, secured their part in the show after a lengthy process of applying, sending photos and WhatsApp videos of the children being interviewed and then taking part in a session with a child psychologist.

She said: “They (the documentary crew) came down and took the kids to the beach to see how they were with the cameras. Then we found out we had got through to the final families and a psychologist came to visit and ask some questions and then we began filming.”

Claire, Leo, Abi, Harleigh with hosts Xand and Chris

Filming took place between August and mid-December and looked at every part of day to day life.

Claire said: “There was some location filming with trips to London and filming the kids around Margate. Some of it was overwhelming. The first time they filmed they wanted the kids getting up, brushing their teeth and going off to school so they were here at 6.15am. Then they were back in the afternoon doing the experiments until 6pm so we did quite a lot of filming but it was a brilliant experience.”

One of the tasks set for the youngsters was to catch a bus in London, armed with a map and the instruction that they must find their way from the starting point of a park to the correct bus stop to travel to the London Eye.

Unbeknown to the children the buses are fitted with hidden cameras and the passengers are extras. There are chaperones in the park and with camera operators in the distance.

It was a particular challenge for Claire who admits she does not let the youngsters play outside on their own.

At the end of the successful challenge

She said: “They did really well, especially with the map reading. They were the first ones out of the park and on to the bus and they (Chris and Xand) said Leo was like a little lieutenant. They had never used a map before!

“It was scary letting them just go off, especially as I have anxiety, even though we were just hiding in the park. I worried that they would get scared but they literally just took off and didn’t care at all!”

Leo, now eight, has since been allowed the freedom to go to the corner shop on his own.

Claire says the trio, who have featured in a national press article and on the Planet Child trailer, are enjoying the attention.

She said: “They think they are little celebrities now. They’re the talk of the playground and Leo has decided he wants to go into TV!”

Claire and her children

Claire has already had a preview screening of the first episode but it will be the first time the children have seen it when it airs tonight (May 1).

Claire said: “They are going to have a late night with popcorn and pizza while they watch themselves.”

Planet Child airs on ITV at 9pm tonight and the following two Wednesdays. Leo, Abi and Harleigh are in episode one and episode three.