Learn more about w-sitting and why pediatric therapists caution against this position.
Don’t miss the update to this post – W-Sitting Revisited – where we answer some of the most common w-sitting concerns, questions and comments readers had about this issue.
Each time I walk into a classroom, I can find at least 3 children who are on the floor in the W-Sitting position…and they kind of remind me of melting snowman. Their legs are wide around their bottoms, their trunk posture is often droopy and they aren’t able to move their arms outside of their base of support to play. I am constantly saying “fix your legs” or “NO “W” SITTING!”. What’s so wrong with W-sitting? Let’s explore.
WHAT DOES W-SITTING LOOK LIKE?
W-sitting looks like this: a child sits on the floor, his bottom is between their legs, and his knees are bent with legs rotated away from the body – if you stand above him and look down, it looks like his legs are forming a “W”. All children have the potential to begin the W-sitting habit.
In this position, a child’s base of support is wider and his center of gravity is lower, allowing for increased stability through the hips and trunk. It’s a convenient position for play because they do not have to work on keeping their balance while also concentrating on toys.
WHY IS W-SITTING PROBLEMATIC FOR KIDS?
In this position, a child cannot achieve active trunk rotation and cannot shift his weight over each side making it difficult to reach toys that are outside of their immediate reach. It is so important for kids to be able to weightshift and rotate in order to develop adequate balance reactions (think of the ability to catch their fall when they are running) and for developing the ability to cross midline (very important for writing).
Bilateral coordination (the ability to effectively use both sides of the body together) is delayed as a result. Every motor skill a child develops is a product of developing the milestone before. So, if a child has difficulty developing bilateral coordination, he may then demonstrate delays in skills such as developing hand dominance, skipping, throwing, kicking, etc.
W-sitting causes the hip and leg muscles to become shortened and tight which may lead to “pigeon toed” walking and could increase chance of back or pelvis pain as they grow. One study also suggests that W-sitting as a preschooler may increase the likelihood of a child becoming flat footed in both feet (European Journal of Pediatrics, Chen KC, 2010)*.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
If a child is frequently in a W-sitting position, core strength may be an issue, which may lead to poor posture, delayed developmental skills, and overcompensation of other muscle groups. If your child is a W-sitter, there are a few things you can do to help him correct his sitting.
First and foremost, encourage other ways to sit on the floor. Side sitting (to either side), long sitting (legs out in front), pretzel sitting, or sitting on a low bench or stool. Consistency is important!
If you find that your child has difficulty maintaining any other position than W-sitting, it may be worthwhile to seek the advice of a pediatrician or physical therapist for suggestions on how to correct his position and for treatment of any underlying strength deficits or muscle tightening that has resulted.
Meet our little friend, Finn (actually, he’s Claire’s little boy…AND a W-Sitter). Claire is one of our OTs here at The Inspired Treehouse and noticed early on that Finn preferred this way of sitting.
Because Claire is a therapist and knows that the W-Sitting position could be an indicator of developmental issues or could cause further concerns, she has paid attention to it and helped Finn become comfortable in alternative sitting positions. See below:
If you’re a therapist or teacher who frequently encounters children who are W-Sitters, share a copy of our printable W-Sitting handout with parents and caregivers!
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*Institute of Medicine, Chung Shan Medical University, Taichung City, 402, Taiwan. European Journal of Pediatrics (Impact Factor: 1.91). 12/2010; 170(7):931-6. DOI:10.1007/s00431-010-1380-7 Source: PubMed
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