Determining the correct clothing size for anyone can be a difficult task, but children's sizes have even more challenges due to the rapid growth of the child and the variations of the clothing industry sizing guidelines. However, this task can be accomplished with relative ease using a bit of forward thinking and pre-planning before you head to the stores. There is no exact science to determining a child's clothing size, so please keep in mind that clothing size charts or tables are guidelines and not to be accepted as the final determination in selecting clothing.

The most important information you need to have with you when you go shopping is your child's height and weight. Be sure you have current and accurate data, though, because a child's physical development can be rather dramatic and unpredictable, especially between the ages of 2 and 5.

While there are a plethora of sizing charts, most will provide sizing based on measurements in pounds and inches. Height should be determined without shoes. If your child's height falls between two different heights or weights on a given sizing chart, selecting the next larger size will more than likely be a better choice for current and future use of the garments. If uncertainty still persists, height tends to be a better indicator than weight of a child's size.

Since every child is different, it may also be useful to measure the circumference of your child's waist and chest, especially when shopping for dress clothes like dresses or jackets. Swimwear should almost always be bought a size larger. It is also important to remember that there are other factors that influence the size of a garment such as the material, the style & cut of the garment and variances of manufacturer sizing as there is no standardized formulation used in the fashion industry for sizing.

Materials such as cotton and denim will have some shrinkage while natural-synthetic blends will retain their size and shape better. Prewashed and pre-shrunk clothing has already been washed by the manufacturer several times; therefore, additional shrinkage is minimal. Again, when in doubt, buy up one size for longer use of clothing.

One of the best strategies for purchasing children's clothing is to buy separates. It is very common for children, like many adults, to wear different sizes in tops and bottoms. Buying matching outfits or sets is not always a practical choice, but separates can be mixed and matched to give your child's wardrobe more mileage and less out of pocket costs. Clothing that has adjustable straps, pants with cuffs and elastic waists will allow a little room for growth. Besides, separates tend to cost much less and the versatility of mixing and matching will keep the "look" fresh and fun. Your child will likely think he or she has a monstrous wardrobe!

If you think your child's height & weight fluctuate, their feet grow at an even more alarming rate which makes keeping track of their shoe size even more difficult. Since most homes don't keep the fancy little foot measures as found in shoe stores, have your child stand on a piece of paper, sans shoes, socks optional, and mark the end of the longest toe and back of the heel. With a measuring tape, measure the length between the two marks, again, in inches and using a U.S. sizing chart, compare the dimensions to locate the appropriate size. Foot width may also be a consideration, but there is less accuracy determining the correct measurements for irregular sizes.

While clothing sizes have a little room for error, poor shoe choices can cause other problems such as tripping if the shoe is too large or extreme discomfort if the shoe is too small. When in doubt, be brave and take your child to the shoe store to actually try on the shoe before you make that critical choice.

Finally, don't make the mistake of shopping in the wrong department or area of children's clothing! Children's labels list sizes in terms of months for newborns & infants, as 2T, 3T whereby the "T" on other tags indicates it is for a toddler and there are sizes in 4, 5, 6, 6X, 7 for children of about age 4 to 6 and a final category of youth that starts at size 8 through about 12 or 14. Just keep an eye out for the signs and tags to make sure you don't wander into the wrong area and take your 6-year-old something from the Juniors department.