Many parents have heard the phrase “W sitting” and that it is “bad” for their child to sit this way. However, many are unaware of the reason that children are discouraged from sitting in this position.
First of all – what is W sitting?
W Sitting is when a child is sitting on their bottom with both knees bent and their legs turned out away from their body. If you were to look at the child from above their head, his or her legs will be in the shape of the letter “W.” Their knees and thighs may be touching together or spread apart.
For many children, this is a preferred or comfortable position, and they sit that way without even thinking about it. Often times, kids who sit in this position are doing so in order to make up for weaknesses they may have in their hips and trunk. The added stability of this position allows them to play with toys in an upright sitting position without worrying about falling over.
It is very common (and normal) for kids to move in and out of this position when playing on the floor. Problems from this position arise when the child sits in that way for an extended period of time. However, as a parent, it is important to recognize when your child is sitting in the W position and to correct it for the following reasons.
W sitting increases the risk of the child’s hip and leg muscles becoming short and tight – this can then negatively affect their coordination, balance, and the development of gross motor skills down the road.
W sitting can increase a child’s risk of hip dislocation – especially those who already have hip dysplasia (which may not be formally diagnosed)
When sitting in the W position, kids are unable to rotate their upper body
Makes it difficult for the child to reach across the body and perform tasks that involve using both hands together or crossing their arm over from one side to the other
This will later affect their ability to perform writing skills and other table-top activities that are important in school
W Sitting hinders the development of a hand preference
The child is only able to use objects on the right side of the body with the right hand and those on the left side of the body with the left hand – this could lead to coordination difficulties later in life
W sitting makes it difficult for the child to shift their weight from one side of their body to the other
The ability to shift weight from one side of the body to the other is especially important in standing balance and when developing the ability to run and jump
W sitting does not allow the child to develop strong trunk muscles
In this position, the child’s trunk muscles do not have to work as hard to keep them upright – instead they are relying on the wide base of support of their legs and joint structures to keep them upright
If you see your child W Sitting, rather than simply saying, “Don’t sit like that!” it is a good idea for you to suggest other ways for them to sit such as:
Criss-Cross or Tailor sitting
Sitting on a small bench
These positions better allow your child to use both hands at the same time on both sides of the body. In addition, these sitting positions help them to shift their weight from side to side more easily, and they encourage your child to use their back and abdominal muscles to maintain the upright sitting position. At first, your child may be resistant to the correction when you ask him or her not to sit in the W position. However, it is important that you consistently make this correction when you see your child sitting in this way, as it can impact their growth and development in a significant way.
Feel free to ask your child’s physical or occupational therapist any questions you may have about W sitting at any time! They can help you come up with different ways to encourage your child to sit in different positions and different activities that your child may enjoy when sitting in these positions.