Monday 3 March 2008

Taken for a ride?

There is a craze in Nappy Valley that must making one Swiss manufacturer extremely rich – and I am not talking about Cartier or Rolex.

Observe any small child in the area and they will be accessorised by one object – a Mini Micro Scooter. These ingenious devices allow a child to ‘pavement surf’ (at least that’s what the company web site trendily calls it) on a plastic board attached to a T-bar for steering. They come in pink for girls and blue for boys, and are the mode of transport du jour for under fives.

For parents, the scooter is a godsend. A child who cannot be persuaded to walk for more than about 50 yards will happily cover a distance of several miles on board; there’s something about the motion, speed and steering that small children seem to love.

Whole families travel to school on the things, and at the local playground, there are so many identical models that fights inevitably break out. Attempts to personalise them are fairly derisory - a sticker here, an elastic band there – and are anyway ignored by toddlers. (Cue cries of “Harry that’s not yours!” as the mother tries in vain to persuade her two year old not to ride off at high speed on someone else’s….).

Naturally I will sound like the typical boastful mother when I say that my toddler boasts some of the most impressive scooting talent I have seen in a child his size. But his ability to slalom around objects such as lampposts, pedestrians and dogs at high speed constantly amazes me. And it isn't just me. Everywhere we go, his sheer speed, accompanied by a determined little expression, elicits glances, smiles, comments, or occasionally looks of horror, from passers-by.

Although it has given me several near heart attacks (eg. when he heads straight for a main road at high speed) my son adores his scooter. It may cost £40 but it’s worth several dozen cheap toys. And so I experienced a moment of pure terror when, one Friday afternoon recently, it malfunctioned. The steering had gone weird, frustrating my toddler to the extent that he actually wanted to walk instead. Examining it, I was reassured by another mother in the playground that ‘no child has ever broken one’. But on closer inspection by Dad (I admit I am hopeless in such matters) a crucial piece of metal prong appeared to be missing from the underside. What to do? Too late to order another one from the trusty John Lewis website. The whole weekend stretched before us, scooter-less and therefore quite promising for tantrums.

And so it is that we find ourselves at 9am on a Saturday morning shivering in the February chill waiting for a local toyshop to open. Naturally, one of the only stockists of spare parts for the Micro Scooter in London is right here. The shop assistant smiles knowingly when I mention the problem, and produces the spare part instantly. But so terrified am I that something else will happen to the scooter, that I buy another one for spare, telling myself the baby can have it in a year’s time when he’s ready.

So now we are a two scooter household….I guess you could say that this is a brand that truly has my loyalty.