W-sitting is when a child sits on his bottom, with knees bent and feet pointed out on either side of his bottom. If you were to look at a child in this position from above, his legs would be positioned in the shape of a “W”.
W-sitting can be a common playing position for toddlers. Some default to this sitting position for comfort, while other children W-sit due to core weakness.
When kids are playing on the floor, it is completely normal and fine for them to move in and out of the W-sitting position. It is less common and also not ideal if a child maintains this position for long periods of time.
I know I was a W-sitter growing up, and now my daughter also likes to W sit. She is a busy kid, so I don’t usually worry too much about her maintaining this position for short periods of time between spurts of activity. I do adjust her legs though if she W-sits while focused on a stationary activity for a while.
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WHY IS W-SITTING BAD?
Here are 5 reasons why you should correct your child’s W-sitting.
1. W-sitting can cause hip dislocation.
W-sitting can actually increase a baby or young child’s risk if hip dislocation, especially if the baby or child has hip dysplasia. This sitting position puts an increased amount of pressure on the hip socket and if the hip socket is shallow from hip dysplasia, the ball part of the joint can more easily pop out.
If a child sits in this position for prolonged periods, it can lead to shortening of your child’s hip and leg muscles. This muscle tightness can negatively impact gross motor development, posture, coordination, and even balance.
To learn more about gross motor development for infants and toddlers, click here.
This can be a child’s default position due to core weakness, but it can also lead to, or exacerbate core weakness. A child’s postural muscles are not as active in W-sitting due to the wide base of support provided by the “W” position.
We all use postural muscles to keep our balance and stay upright while sitting (and standing). The decreased use of postural muscles from W-sitting can contribute to core weakness.
4. W-sitting decreases weight shifting abilities.
The wide base of support provided by W-sitting also prevents a child from shifting side to side in the same way that other sitting positions would allow for, during an activity. Having this dynamic weight shifting ability in sitting is important because it directly translates to a child’s ability to weight shift to, and balance on one side of his body for standing, walking, running, kicking a ball, etc.
5. W-sitting minimizes upper body rotation in sitting.
If a child cannot rotate his body or weight shift, he will reach for things on his left side with his left hand, and to the right with his right hand.
Why is this a problem?
It’s a problem because it eliminates cross body activity.
And why is that important?
When a child reaches across his body (with his right hand to his left side for example), it stimulates the connections between the right and left sides of his brain. In short, this cross-brain integration is critical for physical and mental development.
A lack of upper body rotation and cross body reaching can also delay hand preference (being right handed or left handed). This in turn can delay handwriting, and other important fine motor skills.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD LIKES TO W-SIT
If your child is old enough, gently remind him not to W-sit.
Show your child alternate sitting positions to use instead.
When your child or baby is too young to understand or correct his sitting position, gently help him into another sitting position.
Here are 6 ways to help your child to sit instead:
If you are concerned that your child is W-sitting due to an underlying health condition, or if you are worried about your child’s gross motor development, contact your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor will be able to assess your child and refer you to any necessary specialist, including physical therapy.
Remember, W-sitting is common in young children. It does not necessarily mean anything about your child is atypical if they like to W sit.
W-sitting for short periods of time during active play on the floor is normal and fine.
If your child W-sits for long periods of time, DO correct it to promote typical development.