Free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds can have up to 15 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year. Some childcare providers offer fewer hours per week over more weeks a year (up to 570 hours).

This is a national scheme every child in England is entitled to.

Find out when your child is eligible

Child born betweenWill become eligible for free childcare
1 January and 31 MarchThe start of Term 5 following their third birthday (after April holiday)
1 April to 31 AugustThe start of Term 1 following their third birthday (after Summer holiday)
1 September to 31 DecemberThe start of Term 3 following their third birthday (after Christmas/New Year holiday)

To get free hours for your child, you'll need to find a childcare provider who's registered with us as well as with Ofsted. If you're not sure whether they're registered, please ask the provider or call us on 03000 41 23 23 to find out.


You can use your 15 hours:

  • between 6am and 8pm
  • for a maximum of 10 hours a day.

You can split your 15 hours between providers, for example a nursery and a childminder, but at no more than 2 sites each day. You don't have to use the whole 15 hours.

If you want more than 15 hours, you will need to pay the extra cost yourself. Or if you are eligible apply for 30 hours of free childcare.

Find out more about 30 hours of free childcare


The 38 weeks or more of free hours can be used in line with the following academic periods. Your childcare provider will tell you how many weeks you can use during each period.

  • Autumn: 1 September to 31 December
  • Spring: 1 January to last day of the spring holiday
  • Summer: First day of the summer term to 31 August

Check the exact dates of the holidays and terms on our term dates page.