A £50 million fund is being launched to help boost the academic achievements of nursery schoolchildren from poor families.
The Early Years Pupil Premium will be aimed at three and four year olds and will be worth around £300 per child.
Ministers hope it will close the gap between children from low income families and those from wealthier backgrounds, who are 19 months ahead by the time the start school.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "Every child deserves the chance to fulfil their potential, and this extra funding is a boost to help our youngest children get on in life and succeed.
"Boys and girls from poorer families have often already fallen 19 months behind their better off classmates by the time they hang up their coat on the first day of school. Increasing their chances of success has got to be a top priority."
Nurseries will be able to decide how to use the money, the Department for Education said.
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: "Children from low income families are already behind their peers in language and communication by the age of five - this is not good enough.
"We know it's a challenge to close the attainment gap later on but with the introduction of the Early Years Pupil Premium we hope it will prevent this gap from emerging in the first place."
4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said: "There is a real opportunity to use the announcement today as a springboard to maximise the impact of the free early years and childcare places for two-year-olds and the early years pupil premium for three and four-year-olds, and direct support to the most vulnerable pre-school children in a coordinated way that makes a real difference. We also think there is a real opportunity for children's centres to be much more involved in delivering this.
"The Early Years Pupil Premium needs to be increased during the next parliament to the same amount per head as a primary school child would be allocated. As we approach the next general election the challenge is for all political parties to set out how they will provide the support we know families need towards making Britain great for children and families."