As in many countries, in the Netherlands, governmental policy regulates the decisions of schools and care providers that concern and the control of the quality of education and care. Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution defines a fundamental right of freedom in matters of education within the context of institutions such as schools and other educational services that are under governmental control. Like freedom of speech, religion and association, the right to education and the freedom of education are deeply rooted values in the Dutch culture. This gives rise to serious tensions between schools, parents and the requirements determined by the government. This article explores these tensions by examining trends and innovations in the Dutch early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that have taken place over the past 20 years. In particular, the article outlines an approach to ECEC known as Developmental Education (DE). This initiative is unique in the Netherlands as it systematically implements the ideas about learning and development that stem from Vygotsky's cultural-historical account of children's development and learning. DE is evidence based and organised in a multidisciplinary, well-organised practical and research community. This community works at elaborating the concept of DE and contributing to permanent innovation of ECEC practices in collaboration with practitioners. In this article, I argue that DE and its associated community of practice offer a productive paradigm for future innovations in early childhood education and care. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.