What is W-Sitting?
Have you ever seen your child sit on their bottom with their knees bent and turned inward so their feet are resting by their sides with the heels positioned towards their bottom?
You may have noticed your baby or toddler sitting like this during play activities and when exploring their environment. This position is referred to as w-sitting as it resembles the letter “w”.
Why does my Child Sit Like This?
1. Provides more stability
Your child may rely on this position during play and daily seated activities as it provides more support than in other seated positions such as sitting crisscross or with the legs straight out in front of them. Other seated positions are much more challenging as they activate the core muscles which are needed for upright posture and balance. A child with decreased core strength, endurance, and balance may then compensate by w-sitting in order to focus on other more motivating activities, such as toys or eating.
Babies may begin w-sitting as early as 6 months. If w-sitting began early in life, your child may have quickly learned the ease of this position as it requires less muscle activation while providing more stability.
If W-Sitting Makes it Easier for my Child to Sit, What’s Wrong with It?
1. Changes how your child walks
W-sitting increases the internal range of motion in which the hips can move while decreasing the external range of motion. Additionally, this position can weaken hip muscles, which can contribute to walking with the toes pointed inward otherwise known as pigeon-toed walking.
2. Decreased trunk rotation
The w-sitting position results in challenges rotating the body from left to right while seated due to the poor engagement of core muscles, which may result in your child slouching while seated. Difficulties in turning in both directions while seated result in poor integrating of the left and right sides of the body, which may contribute to poor coordination. Additionally, lack of trunk rotation results in difficulties crossing midline and use of both hands together, required for developing fine motor skills.
3. Decreased core activation
W-sitting provides increased stability while seated due to the wide positioning of the legs. However, this position results in less use of the core muscles needed for upright posture while seated in chairs and strong muscles needed to engage in play and daily activities. W-sitting also reduces the small shifts in weight a child would experience when seated in a crisscross position. These small shifts in body weight as your child is reaching for a toy or object are important for working on their balance.
4. Decreased fine motor skills
Crossing midline and using both hands together are required for developing fine motor skills. However, since these factors are impacted by w-sitting due to limited trunk rotation, fine motor skills tend to be delayed.
5. Poor posture
The pelvis is positioned at a posterior tilt when w-sitting which results in a slouched posture due to decreased activation of core muscles.
How can I help my Child Stop W-Sitting?
1. Provide alternative ways to sit
If you see your child w-sitting, gently change their seated position to crisscross, sitting with legs extended out in front of them, or even lying on their tummy. These positions activate the core muscles while working on balance.
2. Core strengthening
Decreased core strength is one of the major reasons why children w-sit. Incorporate play activities that work on strengthening these muscles such as climbing on playground equipment, swimming, crawling on uneven surfaces, or jumping on a trampoline.
More questions? Contact our clinic to speak with an occupational therapist for a free consultation or to schedule an evaluation!