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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Childcare options for 0 to 5 year olds

When choosing childcare you'll need to consider work hours, budgets, and whether you want care in your own home or with other children. Find out about all the different types of childcare available for 0 to 5 year olds.

Free early years education for three and four year olds

All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early years education for 38 weeks of the year. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). Free early education places are available at a range of early years settings including nursery schools and classes, children's centres, day nurseries, playgroups and pre-school or at their childminders.

For more information about free nursery education in your area, contact your Family Information Service (FIS). The FIS provides information, advice and assistance to parents and carers on the range of children, family and young people's services available in their area.

Sure Start Children's Centres

Working with parents right from the birth of their child, Sure Start Children's Centres provide many services for families, including:

  • early years education for children
  • full day care
  • short-term care
  • health and family support
  • parenting advice
  • training and employment advice

Opening hours

Most Sure Start Children's Centres are open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday, all year round. Some are also open at weekends.


Aside from the free early years education entitlement for three and four year olds, there will be a charge for childcare. Costs will vary, so the best thing to do is contact your local Sure Start Childen's Centre directly.

Finding your local Sure Start Children's Centre

You can locate your nearest Sure Start Children’s Centre by using the 'Find schools and Sure Start Children's Centres' search tool. If you can't find what you are looking for, contact your local FIS directly.

Nursery schools and classes

Nursery schools provide early learning and childcare for children between three and five years old (some will take children from two-and-a-half). They are often based at Sure Start Children's Centres, or linked to an infant or primary school.

Opening hours

Nurseries are usually open from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm in term time for full or half-day sessions. Some also offer care out of school hours and in the holidays.


There is no cost if a nursery is part of the state education system. Private school nursery fees start at around £800 per term, but can be much more.

Preschools and playgroups

Usually run by voluntary groups, preschools and playgroups provide part-time play and early learning for under fives. Three and four year olds can get their 15 hours of weekly free early years education at these providers.

Opening hours

Sessions are usually from two-and-a-half hours to four hours, during term time, every day or for several days a week.


Typically, preschools and playgroups cost £4.00 to £7.00 per hour.

Day nurseries

Often based in workplaces and run by businesses or voluntary groups, day nurseries provide care and learning activities for children from birth to five years old.

Opening hours

Day nurseries are usually open from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm, but hours may vary. You can send your child full or part time, and some offer early drop-offs or late pick-ups.


Rates vary, but most day nurseries cost from £25 to £50 per day.


Usually childminders look after children under 12 in the childminder's own home. They can look after up to six children under eight years old, although no more than three of those must be aged under five.


Generally, childminders work from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, but most are flexible and some may be willing to work weekends.


Depending on where you live and how many children are being looked after, childminders can cost between £2.50 and £7.50 per hour.

Nannies and home-based carers

Usually nannies will provide care for children in your home, and can look after children of any age.


Many nannies live at home with the family they are working for, but whether they live in or not their hours are flexible.


Nannies' fees start at around £6.00 (£9.00 in London) per hour, but this tends to vary greatly. As your nanny's employer, you will also have to pay their tax and national insurance contributions.

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