Start’em young…

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Birthdays are hard. This is a fact that becomes increasingly more apparent every time one rolls by. I’m not talking about the other half though – she’s easy, just buy her something that twinkles. No, I’m talking about the kids. Or more specifically, my daughter, L.

At ten years of age, she naturally has a bedroom full of enough crap to sink a ship. Ergo, she needs no more. On the ‘stuff’ front, she’s well stocked up. But if I wasn’t going to get her stuff, what options would that leave me with? Nothing at all? Cheap, but she’d probably be unimpressed. A cuddle and a pat on the head? Hmm, can’t see that washing. So how about an experience of some kind? Yes, I thought to myself, that’s just the ticket.

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She’s too young for skydiving. And while the thought of paintball did occur, the harrowing images from Byker Grove still haunt me, so that was never going to happen. Then it hit me: she’s forever changing gears in my car when we drive somewhere. Plus, she has a natural interest in cars (as a car guy, I have always been keen to avoid pushing it on her) so how about driving a real car? That’d be cool. But where?

This is where Admiral’s Young Driver scheme comes into play. It does what it says on the tin – young people can drive. But it’s not dulled-down. The cars aren’t restricted, nor are they automatic. They are the same cars you can can walk into a dealership and buy. Though they do of course have dual controls, as per any learner car.

Driving a real car at 10 years of age? She’ll bloody love that, I thought to myself. And I was right.

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The typical Young Driver lesson time is 30 minutes, and that will cost you £34.95. Not outrageously cheap, granted, but then again, without getting caught by the police, where else can you let a pre-teen drive a proper car? As it was her birthday though, I opted for an hour. Oh, and I forked out the additional £15 to have the whole thing filmed. You get the SD card at the end of the lesson, from which you can grab all the video files.

There are other options. Some venues will have a Bentley that they can drive, though this is more money (£49.95) and can only be booked for 30 minutes. But again, where else can your young’un drive a Bentley? Exactly.

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The Young Driver venues typically used are big car parks, so think park and rides, or out of town shopping centres. They lend themselves well to the Young Driver scheme – they have junctions and road markings etc, so it helps immerse the kiddos that little bit more.

And be immersed they will. This is a proper lesson, so they really are learning. Yes, it’s fun and there is no striking of the dash for an emergency stop. But other than that, it’s just like what we did when going for driving lessons. Ergo, L has learned something as well as being given the chance to do something fun. Top parenting points right there.

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Personally, I think it was a brilliant gift. But then I would. What about L? Did she like it? No, she bloody loved it. As such, I think I’m going to get her a lesson once a month from now on. She’ll enjoy it, but at the same time, she’s getting ready for real roads and real motoring. Which, given that our roads are forever getting busier, is no bad thing. knowledge is power, or something like that.

If you have kids, get them to one of the Young Driver centres. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not getting a free lesson for L by writing this. In fact, I didn’t have anything planned in terms of coverage. But it was such a good day, I can’t help but recommend it. Plus, from one parent to another, it never hurts to get ‘brilliant gift’ brownie points from the kids.