One of the dilemmas for parents is balancing work and family commitments. A particular test of this is the school run.

While most parents can accommodate this historic mismatch of timing most of the time, even the best-laid plans can break down. Hence the occasional, heartbreaking sight of a lone child in a vast playground at an unearthly hour.

It shouldnt happen, but sometimes there is no alternative. Or there used not to be.

Throughout the county, breakfast clubs for school children are springing up. What are they, you ask. Well, they are whatever you want them to be as, increasingly it is parents who initiate them.

The uniting theme is that they provide a safe setting in which children can play, do homework, read or what you will. For parents, they are an lifeline. While many clubs are run by parent-governors, others are on school premises and are run by school staff or an outside organisation.

Still others are attached to after-school clubs. And a new trend is for nurseries to expand into breakfast clubs and after-school clubs, providing wrap-round care for the under-fives and beyond.

Not all breakfast clubs serve breakfast, though. Providing food is a fairly new phenomenon, prompted by the worry that many children are going to school on an empty stomach. This is worrying, as there is evidence that by mid-morning their concentration may suffer as a result.

Yet, many children genuinely cannot eat straight after getting up and, as a parent, I welcome the growing trend for breakfast clubs to provide a simple, nourishing breakfast like cereal, fruit and toast at a civilised time.

But breakfast clubs do more than meet the needs of childrens stomachs.

All have a good range of toys,and many develop specialisations reflecting the interests of those running them. Some offer book clubs and encourage children to bring in CDs or a musical instrument. Most have computer.

If your ideal breakfast club doesnt exist near you, now is good time to start one up. To find out what support is available, as well as your obligations under the 1989 Children s Act, ring East Sussex Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership on 01273 481883.