At what age can my children get a free childcare place?

Children aged 3 and 4 are currently eligible for a free childcare place.


There are plans to extend the offer to 2-year-olds from lower income families. This will be means tested and come into effect in the near future. Keep an eye on MFM for more details as they are released by the Government.

When can my child begin nursery or daycare?

When the government rolls out childcare for 2-year-olds, it will depend on your income and their date of birth as to the month they can begin.

  • If your child is born between April 1 and August 31 they will be entitled to free childcare from September 1 after their 2nd birthday.
  • If their birthday falls between September 1 and December 31, they can begin on January 1, after their 2nd birthday.
  • And if they are born between January 1 and March 31, they will need to wait until April 1 after their 2nd birthday to begin.

For children aged 3 or 4 (or about to turn 3):

  • Those born between April 1 and August 31 will be able to attend from the September after their 3rd birthday.
  • Those born between September 1 and December 31, can begin on January 1st, after their 3rd birthday.
  • And those born between January 1 and March 31, they will need to wait until April 1 after their 3rd birthday to begin.

How many hours a week are free?

15 hours per child per week.

How flexible are those hours?

From September 2010, the government has aimed to increase flexibility for parents. You can use your hours over fewer days each week then before but this varies from nursery to nursery. Currently, you are only able to use your free hours during the 38 weeks of term time. However, from 2012, free childcare entitlement will be available over the entire year. Speak to your pre-school to find out what they can provide for you.

What will I have to pay for?

Your childcare provider should give you a clear receipt that shows the free childcare hours plus any extra hours that you need to pay for. You may also be charged for lunch and any trips and extra activities. These will have been agreed with you before they happen. There should not be any top up fees for the 15 free hours.

What nurseries and childcare providers are included?

Most childcare providers are involved. These include playgroups and preschools, primary school reception classes that take early admissions of children from 4 years, nurseries, private nurseries and day nurseries, accredited childminders and Sure Start children’s centres.

More like this

Useful links

Daycare Trust

National Day Nurseries Association

Childcare Directory


Direct Gov's Childcare Finder