Free parenting classes are not a "nanny state" policy, David Cameron insisted as he unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at helping families.

The prime minister said it was ludicrous that people had to train before they were allowed to drive a car but could bring up a baby with no practice at all and revealed he would have liked parenting classes himself.

Vouchers for £100-worth of parenting classes are now on offer from high street chemist Boots and health professionals to parents of children aged up to five in three trial areas.

There will also be a new targeted NHS email and text service aimed at those expecting a baby or in the first month of parenthood.

It is designed to provide "regular, relevant and tailored" advice such as videos of midwives demonstrating bathing and other techniques, plus advice from other parents.

Initially the parenting classes will be piloted in Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and High Peak, Derbyshire - but they could be extended throughout England and Wales if successful.

Courts can already impose such classes on parents of unruly children, but ministers hope that the involvement of Boots will persuade families to see them as just as normal as ante-natal classes.

BLOG: Parenting, The Most Important Job You'll Ever Have

The scheme, known as Can Parent, is said to be the brainchild of Cameron's strategy adviser Steve Hilton.

As well as parenting classes and the new digital service, subsidised relationship support sessions will also be piloted from July for all expectant parents and those with children up to the age of two.

The project will be tested in York, Leeds, North Essex, the City of London and the London boroughs of Hackney, Islington and Westminster, with up to £1 million made available for the trial up to March 2014.

The initiatives are launched nine months after the riots that swept across England last summer, for which ministers blamed a breakdown of family discipline.

Cameron said: "Parents are nation-builders.

"It's through love and sheer hard work that we raise the next generation with the right values.

"That's why this Government is doing everything possible to support parents.

"This is not the nanny state - it's the sensible state.

"It's ludicrous that we should expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it.

"I would have loved more guidance when my children were babies.

"We've all been there when it's the middle of the night, your child won't stop crying and you don't know what to do.

"And to those who say that Government should forget about parenting and families and focus on the big, gritty issues, I'd say these are the big, gritty issues.

"Families don't just shape us as individuals, they make a stronger society.

"That's why supporting families is right at the top of our agenda - and I'm going to make sure it stays that way."

Quick Poll

Are Parenting Classes A Good Idea?

VOTE

Cameron's comments came after he indicated previously that he was "hugely attracted" to the idea of tax breaks on childcare to help parents get back to work.

The economy would be stronger if mothers could be helped back into the workplace after having a child, he argued.

"Where we've put our firepower so far in this agenda is helping the least well-off parents get back into the workforce, so we have increased the hours of free nursery childcare for two, three and four-year-olds in order that they can start looking for work and getting back into the job market," he said during a visit to Manchester.

"I'm hugely attracted to the idea of making childcare tax allowable... It seems so odd that you make other things tax allowable but not this thing that can help people be able to get back to work."

But he stressed that the Government would have to find the money for such a move.

"The issue we always have to deal with is where does the money come from?" he said.

"With everything we do, someone's tax break is someone else's tax burden.

"We have a limited amount of resources, a limited amount of firepower. Where do we put that?"

Cameron said he would have liked parenting lessons himself.

"I've got three, and the youngest is not yet two, and I still sometimes think I would love to have a bit more information about how to get them to do the things I need them to do sometimes," he told ITV1's Daybreak.

"Somebody told me the other day you are meant to praise them seven times more often than you criticise them - try that in a day, it's quite tough."

He said his wife Samantha was "one of those mums who read all the books and was very committed to getting it right".

Speaking after Cameron's announcement of extra support for families, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "We all want to give our children the best start in life.

"But sometimes, particularly for first-time parents, bringing a new baby home can be a daunting as well as a happy experience.

"That is why we are determined to help people become more confident in becoming a parent, from pregnancy to the start of their children's lives."

Loading Slideshow...
  • A 19th Century Wild West horse and carriage come London Hackney cab took to the streets of London today to launch new TV Western series Hell on Wheels, which premieres on TCM this Sunday 20th May at 9pm, as Londoners, commuters and tourists were treated to a taxi ride with a difference. Picture date: Thursday May 17, 2012. ÊOnce the original form of the much loved London Hackney Cab, the 19th century horse and carriage was "pimped' with a 21st century taxi complete with leather seating for six people, an electrical outlet for laptops and ipads, an oil burning lantern and a working London Hackney Carriage style "FOR HIRE' light. Photo credit should read: Geoff Caddick/PA Wire

  • A Green-winged Dove chick with his father at the Edinburgh Zoo. It has been a busy time for the Brilliant Birds residents at the Zoo, as the youngsters took flight and left their nests. Picture date: Thursday May 17, 2012. Several chicks put their flying skills to the test for the first time earlier this week. The youngsters who have taken flight in the last month include; three green-winged doves, three chestnut-backed thrushes and a Nicobar pigeon. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

  • Protester of the 'Blockupy' movement have pitched tents at the Roemerberg in Frankfurt Main, Germany, 17 May 2012. Police are out in force to prevent riots during the days of action by groups critical of capitalism. Photo: BORIS ROESSLER

  • Cadets walk in a sally port at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., on Thursday, May 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

  • Fireworks light up crew members and honor guard during the national anthem before the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • A chandelier is seen from underneath during a preview of the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the Seattle Center, Thursday May 17, 2012, in Seattle. The new, permanent 1.5 acre exhibit is located near the base of the Space Needle and opens to the public Monday, May 21. It looks at the career of artist Dale Chihuly and features an eight-gallery exhibition hall, conservatory and garden as well as a cafe with a selection of Chihuly's collections of vintage accordions, radios, clocks and other mid-century memorabilia. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • Crew members for driver Jimmie Johnson celebrate after winning the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, lights the torch at a ceremony in Panathinean stadium in Athens, Thursday, May 17, 2012. The torch begins its 70-day journey to arrive at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, from the Greek capital, to cover about 8,000-mile (12,875-kilometer) on its progress over many parts of England to start the games. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

  • French bullfighter Sebastian Castella is gored during a bullfight of the San Isidro's fair at the Las Ventas Bullring in Madrid, Thursday, May 17, 2012. Castella continued with the bullfight, bleeding from his injured groin. Bullfighting is an ancient tradition in Spain and the season runs from March to October. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

  • An artwork titled " The Earth and the World " by Indonesian artist Rudi Mantofani is displayed at the ART HK 12 art fair in Hong Kong Thursday, May 17, 2012. ART HK 12 is a fair showcasing artwork for sale from 266 galleries representing 39 international territories. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)