This paper presents the results of a Young Lives study into the impact and perceptions of the Programa Nacional Wawa Wasi, a Peruvian government programme for impoverished children aged six to 48 months. Up to eight children spend five days a week at a Wawa Wasi centre where they are assisted by a carer carefully selected from the local community. The results suggest that children who have spent at least six months at a centre have similar indicators in gross motor, language and fine motor development to children who have stayed at home. Interviews with several key actors indicated a positive outcome: centres are environments where children are kept safe and fed nutritious meals, freeing mothers of worries and enabling them to work or study. However, Wawa Wasi’s goal of improving children’s development is not sufficiently prioritised. There is a need for Wawa Wasi managers to strengthen early learning components of the programme, to enhance the skills of those who provide care and to recognise the dedication of paid carers and volunteers who have contributed to Wawa Wasi’s success.