Prime Minister David Cameron is to launch a commission on childcare which will look into how to bring down the cost to parents and increase the supply of places.
Childcare is now one of the top cost-of-living burdens on families, with a recent Daycare Trust report suggesting that the average annual cost of part-time care for an under-two now tops £5,000 - with prices up to three times that level in London.
With the rising cost of childcare outstripping wage increases, some parents may be forced out of work, warned the Trust.
The new commission, led by education minister Sarah Teather and work and pensions minister Maria Miller, will look at ways of driving down costs by reducing the red-tape burden on providers. And it will explore innovative schemes to provide "wrap-around care" for over-fives at the beginning and end of the school day and during the holidays.
Mr Cameron said: "Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable. We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children."
Mr Cameron has asked the commission, which will report to him and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the autumn, to explore the effectiveness of current Government support, which is due to increase by £1 billion by 2014. And he wants it to look at international examples to see what the UK can learn from different models of childcare support.
The commission will investigate whether there is unnecessary red tape that could be abolished or rules that could be relaxed - perhaps by reducing adult-to-child ratio requirements in areas with no after-school clubs.
Children's Minister Sarah Teather told ITV Daybreak that the quality and affordability of child care were the top priorities for parents.
"They want to make sure it is affordable but they also want to know, if they leave their child in a nursery or with a child minder, that they are going to be safe and are going to learn and develop and that somebody is going to be watching to make sure that they develop well," she said.
"We are doing a great deal at the moment to try and make child care more affordable so by 2014 two out of five families will get 15 hours at a nursery, beginning with the poorest of those families, particularly those who are earning the least and working hard.