Inappropriate and even inadequate clothing might restrict children's physical activity in child care centres.
A research team, led by Dr Kristen Copeland from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, undertook a qualitative study of 53 child-care providers from 34 child-care centers in Cincinnati, Ohio, and examine why physical activity levels may vary
They found that clothing was potentially a significant barrier to children's outdoor physical activity.
Inappropriate clothing included inadequate outdoor clothing, such as a lack of coats and gloves in the wintertime; unsuitable footwear, such as flip flops; and "nice" or expensive outfits that were not to be ruined.
The study found that a few children dressed improperly could prevent the entire class from going outside, thus restricting physical activity.
It also emerged that clothing choices were a significant source of conflict between parents and child-care providers.
Caregivers suggested several reasons why parents may dress their child inappropriately, including forgetfulness, a rushed morning routine, limited income to buy clothes, a child's preference for a favourite item, and parents not understanding the importance of outdoor play.
The study shows that parents may need education about the importance and benefits of active play for children's development.
Copeland said, "Child care centres should consider instigating clear and specific policies regarding the type of clothes permitted at these centers so that children's active play opportunities aren't curtailed".
The study appears in BioMed Central's open access journal, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.