Two thirds of nursery staff are not allowed to kiss children in their care, a survey has found.
The poll conducted by daynurseries.co.uk revealed that 67% of the nursery owners, managers and staff questioned said they are not allowed to kiss youngsters at their nursery.
Of the 1,125 people who responded, 33% said the practice was permitted where they worked.
Sue Learner, editor of daynurseries.co.uk, said: "It is very sad so many nursery staff feel unable to show affection to children by kissing them on the head or cheek.
"Some of these children are in nursery from as young as three months, for five days a week from 8am till 6pm, and it is vital they feel love and warmth from the staff.
"Nursery staff obviously worry they could get accused of abuse or criticised by parents who feel envious of the close bond between them and the child."
She added that children deserve physical attention and nursery staff should not be afraid to give them kisses and cuddles which are important for their well-being.
But John Warren, who has worked in the childcare industry for over 30 years, from nursery practitioner to Ofsted inspector, with roles at Asquith Nurseries and Kidsunlimited, said kissing should not be allowed at nurseries.
He explained: "I cannot think of a situation where a child in a nursery needs a kiss from an adult to settle them in the nursery.
"I believe that the children in our care need to be shown love, care and affection along with educating and inspiring them.
"However this must be done in a way where our children feel safe and protected and our staff feel comfortable and also protected from accusations.
"Parents want their children to be safe and loved and we can achieve this but without kissing."
Rachel Munro-Peebles, co-founder of Fount Nursery in London, said that while staff were allowed to kiss children on the cheeks hands and forehead, it was not something that was promoted internally.
She added: "We also believe that if children show affection towards staff, they should be able to show it back - this is an integral part of the child's learning development and emotional intelligence journey - as well as personal, social and emotional development.
"This is especially present with babies and toddlers as they transition from their parents."
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder and CEO, told the Press Association: "Mumsnet users are pretty relaxed about cheek kisses and think it's a shame when children and childcare staff are prevented by regulation from exchanging displays of genuine affection.
"There's strong consensus, though, that these things should be initiated by the child - asking toddlers and small children for kisses and hugs that they might give only reluctantly is seen as being pretty unfair."