On Sunday morning I found myself being driven around the roof top of a shopping centre car park by six year old Little Miss C.
Yes you did read that correctly, and no you don’t need to be calling social services at this point.
I guess I’d better explain…
I’m pretty sure that most of you have heard about driving lessons for children that are not yet old enough to be legally driving on the road. It makes complete and utter sense to me that if you can start teaching children to drive earlier in a safe way then when they get to be actually on the road with other road users they can concentrate on proper road skills rather than getting confused between the accelerator, the brake and the clutch as I was when I first learnt to drive. Young Driver have been doing this for a while, but in my head everything they did was targeted at teenagers so I’d sort of tuned them out if that makes sense.
Then there I was at Blog On in Manchester last month and I noticed that they had a stand in the brands section. “Oh that’s those people who teach teenagers to drive early” I though to myself and I nearly walked straight past their stand to go and talk to the Hotter Shoes team who were just next door. For some reason though something caught my eye and I found myself doing a little double take as I suddenly saw something on a poster that said “ages 5 – 10”. Swinging back round I found myself face to face with one of their PR team and I said something daft like “can you really teach a five year old to drive?”. Their answer of yes had me even more intrigued. My six year old is still in a car booster seat, how on earth can she drive a car. Young Driver have the answer though.
What Young Driver have done is create a range of special two seater cars designed for 5 to 10 years olds that are available at a range of locations across the UK. Called the “Firefly” these cars were styled for Young Driver by veteran car designer Chris Johnson, and they feature independent suspension, disc brakes, twin electric motors, rack and pinion steering, indicators and head lights. In other words they’re just like having a miniature car!
Little Miss C was booked in to have a 20 minute trial lesson at London’s Brent Cross. Most weekends Young Driver take over the roof top of one of the centre’s multi-storey car parks and children of all ages are there driving Fireflys and full size cars with instructors. The section for the Firefly cars is separated off from the full size vehicles and so they have their own separate area to drive in. LMC started off in the car with one of the instructors, being taught how to use the accelerator and steer around a cone course that had been set up with miniature road signs and a roundabout.
There’s something quite scary about watching your first born behind the wheel of a car. Even more so when they’re only 6 and that car is being driven towards you at up to 10 mph! Amazingly though LMC seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly and before I knew it she’d parked up and her instructor was asking me to get in the car with her for the rest of her session.
She then drove me around the little road circuit that they had, talking me through what she needed to do when she came to the corners and various road signs. Yes I did need to grab the steering wheel a couple of times to help make sure that we made it round all the corners in one piece, but actually I was really impressed with how she did. Although the bit in the experience when she almost channeled her inner Theresa May and started chanting “slow and steady” as we went round corners did scare me slightly!
Little Miss C absolutely loved her driving experience. So much so that she was asking how soon she could go again within minutes of finishing. She was thrilled to receive her “driving licence” at the end of the session, but does now seem very set on the idea of her first car being a convertible! I guess I’d better start saving then…
Young Driver Firefly lessons for 5 – 10 years olds take place at various centres across the UK. For a full list please look on the Young Driver website here. A twenty minute lesson currently costs £19.95.
Disclaimer: We were invited for Little Miss C to do a Young Driver lesson in a Firefly for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain our own.