If you're a working parent, as I am, you probably get swamped by feelings of irrational guilt.

Should you be with your child rather than earning a crust? Is your child missing out because you're not there at the school gates? Do they feel cornered into going to the after-school club?

Leaving aside the fact that children with a stay-at-home parent also jump at the chance of going to an after-school club with their friends, there's no doubt that you would have to have highly developed parenting skills to provide the range of activities and resources available, day-in-day-out, at an average club.

For example, I can't recall the last time I remembered it was Shrove Tuesday on the day itself and, yes, that meant pancakes. But the playleader at my son's club did.

So, when I collected him, not only did he regale me with the usual list of brilliant things he'd done, but he also proudly explained to me how to make pancakes and how delicious his were.

It's a cliche that children need to socialise, but cliches are based on fact. Of course, they play and talk and fall in and out of friendships at school, but the club is pure relaxation.

From the moment they get on the bus that takes them to the club site, to the moment that you collect them, they are enjoying themselves in a way that some people will say doesn't happen any more.

They switch off without switching on PlayStation 2.

Of course, children have different needs too. I have one sporty child and another who prefers to draw and paint.

Clubs can accommodate this, because they have a high number of adult-to-children ratio, and these adults have a whole range of skills that they bring to the job.

Everything from football to jewellery making and from IT to clay modelling.

To identify a club for your child, ask at your child's school about the arrangements operating there, which will mean your child will stay with his or her friends.