File photo: Angry parents also pointed out that the bikinis would leave a lot more of their children’s skin exposed when at the beach or by a pool. Picture: Pixabay

London - British retail store Primark has been accused of "stripping the innocence" from children by selling bikinis targeted at toddlers.

A shopper spotted a bikini designed for an 18-month-old girl in a branch of the high street chain and shared the picture on social media.

Children’s welfare charity Kidscape has now urged the company to "let our children be children" and to leave bikinis until girls are old enough to make conscious decisions about wearing them.

Angry parents also pointed out that the bikinis would leave a lot more of their children’s skin exposed when at the beach or by a pool, offering limited protection against the sun.

Primark denied that its children’s swimwear was unsuitable and said the bikinis were designed in line with British Retail Consortium guidelines, insisting that the items were age-appropriate.

The clothes store offers a pink and white striped two-piece with a bow on the bikini top and another blue and gold set with ruffles featured on the front.

When mother Holli Sherratt, 22, first saw the swimwear, she said she did not even realise that the two-piece was intended for children.

Sherratt, from Paignton, Devon, said: "In my eyes it is completely stripping the innocence and childhood of said child. When I first saw the bikini, I instantly thought it was lovely until I realised it was for a child.

"A child should be covered up, protected from the sun and not flaunted as some sort of model. I have a daughter of my own and I want to protect her innocence and let her be a child.

"I look at this bikini the same way I look at bras that are aimed at young children."

When looking for the garments online, IOL noted the page was temporarily unavailable on Primark's UK website.