Parents stressed over the daily school drop off and pick up have been promised a $450 million boost to after school hours care with Kevin Rudd's big pitch to families on the first day of campaigning.
Up to 345,000 children aged five to 12 years will benefit from the pledge, which would provide up to 500 schools with the extra funding needed to introduce new services, or expand what they currently offer.
"A kid's development doesn't just begin at 9am and end at 3pm," Mr Rudd said of the measures, which would start in 2014.
"The government will give parents a further helping hand."
Mr Rudd said after school care could open as early as 7am and run to 7pm, while extra hours might also be provided during holidays.
Additional places would be provided in areas where parent currently lack access to such care.
New services, such as music programs, supervised sport and homework clubs, would also be encouraged, with grants of up to $200,000 available to schools.
"The practical stuff which makes that time before and after school useful and a fun place to be as well," Mr Rudd said.
Families who access the improved after-school services would still be eligible for the 50 per cent Child Care Rebate, the prime minister said.
The union representing after hours care workers said the extra funding would help meet the dramatic increase in demand for services.
"This new $450 million program will go a long way to improving services offered to families, which can only make a positive contribution to children's wellbeing and to women's workforce participation," United Voice president Michael Crosby said in a statement.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said 70 per cent of people with kids were in paid work.
"They need affordable, accessible and high quality childcare as well as the ability to plan their working hours around formal care," she said in a statement.
The Women's Electoral Lobby said it would boost work opportunities for mothers "hampered by a lack of access to flexible and appropriate care for school age children".
The Australian Greens Sarah Hanson Young welcomed the move but said it only "tinkers around the edges" of the funding hole faced by the childcare sector.
Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne and childcare spokeswoman Sussan Ley reminded voters Mr Rudd had promised to end the "double drop off" in 2007.
The coalition would consult with states and the sector on the after hours plan, "to check that the funding being promised can actually deliver what Labor claims".