W-sitting is a familiar term for many parents, teachers and clinicians, and most of them could tell you that it is not good for a child to sit this way. But what is the real issue with this seated position that so many children demonstrate?
What is W-Sitting?
W-sitting is when a child sits on their bottom, with both knees bent and their legs pointing out and away from their body. When looking from above, the child’s legs appear to form the letter “W.”
Why is W-sitting so common?
W-sitting is a very common and often preferred position for children. Many children find this to be a comfortable position because it provides a wider base of support and lowers their center of gravity, which provides more stability through their hips and trunk and compensates for any weakness in these areas. This allows a child to engage in play without having to concentrate on keeping their body upright and balanced.
Why is W-sitting a problem?
-Muscles of the hips and legs can become shortened and tight, resulting in muscle weakness as well as back and pelvic pain as a child grows.
-In this position, a child’s hips are internally rotated, which can lead to bone malalignment and abnormalities during development. This can result in pigeon-toed walking, which increases a child’s risk for falls.
-Trunk rotation and weight shifting are limited when in this position. A child needs to engage in these movements to develop balance reactions as well as to cross midline (reach across their body) with each arm.
-The wide base of support created by W-sitting provides too much trunk stability and control, meaning the child is not properly engaging and strengthening their core muscles.
-The W position puts increased strain on a child’s joints and can increase the likelihood of hip dislocation
How can we address W-sitting?
The best thing a parent, teacher or clinician can do when a child is W-sitting is to redirect by verbally cueing or physically assisting them into a different position. You can practice using a verbal cue that works best for your child, such as “Fix your legs/feet” or “Fix your sit.” You may also need to physically assist the child in adjusting their posture. Other positions you can encourage include:
There are many ways you can encourage participation and play while in these various positions. And though it may be difficult for a child to break the “W” habit and challenge their trunk strength and balance, it is one small change that can have a big impact on a child’s development.
Ashley Heleine, MS, OTR/L
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