If there was a magic pill which would turn kids into socially well-adjusted, educated and ambitious adults, mums and dads would make sure the government gave them a prescription.
Yet when it comes to high quality childcare, which has the same effect on children, historically, our demands haven't been quite so high.
As recently as the mid-1980s, the UK had less publicly-funded childcare than most other EU countries.
It's only in the last few years, that the importance of intervening at an early stage in a child's life has become more and more clear.
In 2004, the Eppe study commissioned by the Department for Children, School and Families left politicians in no doubt that they needed to act.
Research showed that early years education or high-quality childcare, markedly improved a child's intellectual, social and behavioural development. And, as a result, the Government has spent billions providing free, part-time early education places to three and four-year-olds throughout England, for 2.5 hours per day or 12.5 hours per week.
Yet, despite such investment, last week a report by the Daycare Trust highlighted that in England, the cost of a nursery place for a child over two years old has risen by 5.1% in the last year - almost double inflation.
According to national childcare charity the Daycare Trust's chief executive, Alison Garnham, the future of affordable childcare needs to be secured.
"I suspect what's going on is that there are a lot of providers out there who are feeling the pinch, and having to protect themselves from the cold wind of the economy and as usual it's parents picking up the tab."
Not only is Garnham concerned about the price of private childcare during a recession, but that spending cuts and a change in government could spell disaster for parents and the programmes they rely on.
"There's been no commitment as yet by the Conservatives to guarantee spending on early years childcare provision," she says. "But we are worried that in this climate of cuts there is no guarantee early years provision will be safe."
As the general election looms, the Daycare Trust is encouraging mums and dads to ask their local MPs to make a real commitment to families.
"We'll be providing parents with a tool kit, to help them ask their candidates the right questions and ask their local representatives to sign up to a childcare manifesto which guarantees provision," she says.
Caring for your kids
According to Justine Roberts, co-founder of the UK's most popular parenting website, Mumsnet, childcare is a hot topic among their users.
And they're not just talking about the effect childcare has on their kids.
"Whenever we get to a discussion about what governments could do for parents, childcare inevitably crops up as one of the most popular issues.
"Affordable childcare would make all the difference, especially for parents who want to go back to work and find that the cost of childcare pretty much cancels out any financial benefit."
In the event of a Conservative government, Roberts would rather the money promised to cover tax breaks for married couples be spent on childcare instead.
"There's no evidence that politicians understand the problem, in terms of the policies they're offering us. I think it would be much more attractive to parents to see the money being spent for tax breaks for married couples being spent on childcare provision.
"They are paying lip service to the woman's vote with family friendly policies, but we'd like to see more tangible measures."
The benefits for mums
Sarah Currie from Peterborough is one mother who relies heavily on state-funded childcare provision.
With two children aged six months and 4 years old, she was surprised by the difference that childcare has made on her eldest son since he began attending nursery part-time.
"My son only goes 15 hours a week," says Sarah, "but I've really noticed the difference.
"He's much more confident. If he needs to go and play with a friend, he'll go. And when he's with other children he doesn't know, he's much more socially aware. He'll share, and tidy up. At nursery they reinforce the values we teach him at home.
"And what he learns is fantastic - he'll come home and sing these songs that we didn't know existed!
"It also means that I can think about going back to work."
Currie's son's place is funded - although the couple have to pay during the school holidays - and she says it's scary imagining that this situation could soon change.
"Come September it could all end... It could be that quick, if politicians decide not to pay for it. And that's the worry that mums have. That it could be taken away."
Alison Garnham believes that the 12.5 hours of care currently available needs to be increased to a more "realistic number of hours", such as 20 a week.
"This would make it a sensible offer for parents - helping them to move into paid work as well as creating social and intellectual advantages for children.
"Parents, married or otherwise, face the additional costs of having children.
"When the political parties talk about supporting families, an effective high quality childcare infrastructure would provide support practically better than anything else."
As well as the benefits to children and families, childcare helps to combat inequalities between the classes and men and women, adds Garnham.
"The prize of offering childcare is that you get all children arriving at primary school at more or less the same level no matter who rich their families, and mothers can go back to work.
"We can't achieve gender equality or break the link between social status and achievement unless we have a proper child care infrastructure, it's as simple as that."
Despite huge investment by New Labour, Britain still lags behind many other countries.
"The truth is that we started from a very poor position," says Alison. "In the mid-1980s we had less publicly funded childcare than practically any other EU country with the exception of Portugal. So the important thing to say is the Government has done tremendously well to get from there to here. And we should recognise that."
But, she adds, we need more investment.
"Unicef and OECD agree that governments should spend 2% of their budgets on early years spending. And that's the ambitious leap that we need to take next.
"We spend just 1%, £4.3 billion at the moment, and if you compare that to higher education where we spend £24.3 billion, or secondary schools where we spend £30.1 billion, you can see it's a drop in the ocean."
Find out what's available
Every child qualifies for a free early education place regardless of their family's income or situation.
Free, part-time early education places are available throughout England for all three-and-four year-olds. The early education places are offered for at least 2.5 hours per day or 12.5 hours per week.
A child moving to England from another country is entitled to a free early education place, regardless of whether they have British citizenship or not.
Childcare places are available at any approved early education or childcare provider, which include: Day nurseries; pre-schools/playgroups; nursery classes; nursery schools; and, childminders who are part of an accredited network.
If your child is not currently in childcare or your provider does not offer a free early education place, contact your local Family Information Service.
For details of which childcare providers in your area provide the free entitlement/early years places contact ChildcareLink on 0800 234 6346 or visit www.childcarelink.gov.uk