W-sitting is a floor sitting position where a child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and their legs positioned outside of their hips meaning their feet will be pointing outwards.
If you stand above a child in this position you will see their legs and body will resemble the letter W.
Why do children sit in a W position?
Children sit in a W position for a number of reasons but mostly it creates a large base of support and a lower centre of gravity meaning their bodies require less muscle work and they are in a much more stable position during playtime. Simply put, it is a complementary strategy for abdominal and trunk weakness and/or poor balance.
What is the risk associated with W sitting?
For babies, W-sitting is a normal part of their development and you may frequently see young babies and toddlers in this position as they learn to walk and discover the world around them. The issues with W-sitting mainly occur when they are excessively W-sitting so, for this reason, it is recommended to encourage other sitting positions during periods of seated play from a young age.
However, for older children problems may arise from prolonged W-sitting and these risks include:
- Long term W-sitting can delay or impair fine motor development by affecting their ability to perform basic tabletop activities in preschool and school and/or their ability to write.
- Prolonged time spent in any position of poor posture can lead to stress on the joints which can lead to back or hip pain as an adult.
- When sitting in a W-position, children are unable to rotate their upper body meaning their ability to move around is limited and it makes it difficult for children to shift their weight from one side of the body to the other.
- W-sitting can decrease the development of gross motor skills negatively affecting their balance and coordination which is essential for healthy growth.
What should you do about W-sitting?
If you see your child sitting in the W-position from time to time, there is no real cause for concern. However, keep an eye on it to see if they shift themselves to different positions during playtime.
If your child is favouring the W-position encourage them to move about and try a variety of other functional sitting positions such as:
- criss-cross sitting (alternate which leg is on top)
- side-sitting (knees bent with both feet to one side)
- long-sitting (legs out straight in front)
- tailor-sitting (both legs bent with feet touching)
Parents should also offer different seating options like a small stool, beanbag or wiggle cushion. You can also encourage them to play with toys while lying on their stomach.
If W-sitting is becoming an issue, bring your child to a Physiotherapist or an Occupational Therapist. They will be able to help your child with various strategies to decrease W-sitting and increase proper postural positions.