Body mass index (BMI) relates weight to height and reflects the shape of a child, but because of age dependency it has not been used conventionally for the estimation of fatness in children. From measurements of Tayside children (n = 34,533) centile charts were constructed for BMI (wt/ht2) from the raw data of height and weight, using Cole's LMS method for normalised growth standards. These data were compared with the only available European BMI charts published from data of French children obtained over a period of 24 years from 1956-79. British children appear to be 'fatter'. Within a subgroup (n = 445) the BMI values were correlated with estimations of body fat, for boys and girls, from skinfold thickness (r = 0.8 and 0.81) and bioelectrical impedance (r = 0.65 and 0.7). The limits of acceptable BMI have yet to be defined.