This study analysed the role of both sociocultural background and exposure to a crèche on children's development of cognitive competence in Switzerland. Data were derived from a survey on children's cognitive proficiency after enrolment to primary school. Correlations and multiple linear regressions indicate that crèche experience was not related to children's cognitive proficiency when sociocultural background characteristics were held constant, irrespective of duration and intensity of exposure. However, social and cultural background variables were related significantly to children's competence, suggesting that sociocultural disparities begin to affect children's skills early in life. The results are contextualised within the field of early childhood care and education research, and a number of explanations concerning the absence of effects of crèche are discussed. The findings are discussed in terms of implications for policy. They might encourage policymakers to supply socially disadvantaged children growing up in impoverished learning environments with enriched services and special interventions.