High street retailer Next has drawn criticism for the introduction of a ‘plus-sized’ range to its children’s department.
The new clothes will be available for ages three to 16, and are cut to afford more give room around hips and waists for differently proportioned children. The ‘Plus Fit’ range has waist bands around 5cm larger than standard sizes for any given age.
Though the range has been introduced to make shopping for children’s clothes easier for parents, there has been some concern that ‘plus sized’ clothing for children as young as three will encourage unhealthy habits.
Recent data from the National Child Measurement Programme for England found that childhood obesity is reaching new heights, with one in three 10-11 year-olds classed as overweight or obese in 2015-16.
Professor Russell Viner, Officer for Health Promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says the development is a cause for concern.
‘Parents need to be able to buy comfortable clothes for their children, however it’s pretty shocking that clothes retailers are having to introduce plus sizes for children,’ he told the MailOnline.
‘Sadly though it’s not surprising – we’re seeing children younger and younger struggling with their weight. Frighteningly one in five are overweight or obese when they start primary school, rising to one in three when they leave. This is another example of obesity becoming a “normal” part of childhood when it shouldn’t be. We need to carefully balance not stigmatising obese children and young people without accepting that obesity is just a fact of life.’
‘Obesity is on the political agenda – the sugar tax comes into force in April next year and the sugar reduction programme is underway but much more needs to be done,’ he continued. ‘Government must get tough on advertisers and stop junk food being advertised at children during family TV shows, the value of healthy eating should be on the agenda in schools, and physical activity needs to be a core part of every child’s life.’
Next’s capsule collection consists of 47 items, including school wear such as trousers, skirts and shirts. As well as the extra inches added to waistbands, shirts will be made from a ‘stretch cotton blend’ for extra give.
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When contacted for commented by MailOnline, a representative for Next said: ‘They were introduced to cater for children with different size waist and hips, taking into account that children come in all different shapes and sizes.’
‘Standard fit caters for the average sized child and makes up the majority of Next’s ranges and sales, followed by “slim” fit garments.’