An issue flagged up in the British news recently reminded us of a 2009 report from the Afterschool Alliance that more than 15 million school-age children in the US are on their own once school lets out.
Between school and bedtime
Left to their own devices, I have a hunch that older children would ignore the books, board games and green salad you've lovingly left out, preferring to grab a bag of crisps, switch on the TV or pick up a computer game.
But equally, they don't need chaperoning during every spare moment. The answer clearly lies somewhere in between.
Free time is really important to kids
They've been with grown-ups all day long, being directed and told what to do. Just like adults, children like coming home after a long day to a welcoming, unpressurised environment so there's absolutely nothing wrong with letting them wind down for half an hour when they get in.
Let them watch a DVD if that's what they want as long as they've done something active, creative or mildly academic beforehand.
Planning fun after school activities at home
If you, your nanny or childminder is there with them, there are lots of things you can do at home.
After reading, games or role play, decorating cakes and biscuits is always a sure fire winner in my house. It's fun and kills a good hour, longer if you bake them yourself. Make dinner interactive; create your own pizzas or flip some pancakes.
Getting outside is always good and when the nights draw in a torch lit walk should have them out the door in no time.
The main thing is that kids are happy, learning and having fun and if you can't be there for older children once in a while don't feel guilty.
We were allowed freedom to do things on our own when we were younger too!
Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor