The sound of the final school bell tolling the summer holidays is music to most children's ears.

But while days of freedom delight pupils, their parents might not be quite so ecstatic at the prospect.

Juggling a full-time job with the demands of youngsters is tricky when it comes to organising childcare during working hours.

Megan Pacey, senior policy officer at Daycare Trust, says parents have to plan ahead:

"It's the hardest time of year to find constant quality care because there is such a huge demand. It is like reverting back to before they started nursery education.

"The main point is to plan as far in advance as possible."

It is important for parents to feel secure leaving their children but it must also suit the child's needs. After all, the summer holidays are one of the best things about being young. It's their time to have fun do things they might not do in the rest of the year.

Finding this combination of security and fun during working hours and at an affordable price is a dilemma for most parents.

Some couples divide the holiday period between themselves, taking time off separately to cover the six to nine-week break. This covers the childcare issue but means both parents can't enjoy days off together.

She advises asking employers well in advance about leave during the summer break as this is usually the most popular time for staff to take holidays.

The break may be the perfect opportunity for children to spend time with grandparents or relatives.

Alternating childcare duties between family members or friends with children can also ease the burden.

"Ask other parents what they are doing with their kids over the holidays, share ideas and arrange a swap for looking after each other's kids."

But if relying on close friends or family is not an option, Pacey advises contacting the Children's Information Service for details of registered child minders and play schemes in the area. Details of local branches can be found by contacting ChildcareLink on 0800 096 0296.

Parents can also check whether they are eligible for Childcare Tax Credit, an element of the Working Families Tax Credit, to help pay for childcare. Contact the Tax Credit helpline on 0845 609 5000 for further information.

Kids Clubs Network (020 7512 2112) runs holiday clubs in local areas costing around £70 a week for five days of childcare. The scheme runs from 8am to 6pm in most areas for children aged from four to 14. Childcare workers occupy the children with a daily plan of artistic and sporting events.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of Kids Club Network, explains the system: "Parents can drop off their child and go to work knowing what their children are doing. They will have been told the programme set in advance for that day.

"The kids love it because they can be with their friends and are not stuck at home by themselves, getting bored."

There are also a number of community resources that parents can tap into to keep their children safe and entertained during the holidays.

Local newspapers, community information boards, libraries or leisure centres are an excellent way to find out what is going on in the area. They will advertise details of any day-long workshops or week-long programmes available.

"Check with the school as there may be activities on the school site such as workshops, drama or sports events going on," adds Pacey.

"Failing that, a trip to the park is a cheap and pleasant way to spend a sunny day."

With a little imagination, versatility and an idea of the options available, parents need not despair this summer.

Instead they can look to the summer holidays as a chance to enjoy spending some precious and relatively stress-free time with their children.