"What's in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet," said Juliet to Romeo.

Well names mean plenty in the bewildering range of care options for the under-fives.

There's day nurseries, play-groups and pre-schools, parent and toddler groups, not to mention nursery schools and nursery classes.

What's a parent to do but panic or do we, like Juliet, say they're all roses and all smell as sweet? Well, like the many varieties of rose, they share common characteristics but let's start with the differences.

Day nurseries,for example, can cater for babes in arms right up to four-year-olds. Run by nursery nurses or NVQ-qualified staff and often headed by a qualified teacher, they have a very high ratio of adults to children, as required by the Children Act.

Crucially for working parents, they open for long hours.

Playgroups and pre-schools also provide daycare with a high adult-child ratio but are run by playleaders exclusively for two to five-year-olds sometimes for as short a period as two hours. They provide opportunities for learning through play but, unlike parent and toddler groups, your child is cared for by professionals.

Where does that leave the small number of nursery schools and nursery classes in the county? Both provide early education. Nursery classes are attached to infant schools, and your child would be in a class with more children per adult than in a nursery or playgroup.

Nursery schools,which are exclusively for three and four-year-olds, are run by and mainly staffed by teachers and they have similar staff-child ratios.

Does that mean that day nurseries, playgroups and pre-schools provide childcare pure and simple, while nursery schools and classes educate?

No. All of them follow the early education curriculum with its dependence on early learning goals, and some, regardless of what their name implies,offer early education places.

The dividing line between good childcare and early education is a blurred one, as childcare embraces education in a broad sense.

To select the best for your child, visit as wide a range as possible and trust your instincts.