As a physical therapist I often get asked about “W” sitting: what exactly is “W” sitting, why is it bad for children, what will happen if my child does sit with a “W” position, why does my child prefer to sit like that, and how do I correct the sitting posture? “W” sitting is one of the most common positions children transition into and out of while playing and or sitting on the floor. As pictured above, “W” sitting is when the child is seated with their bottom on the ground, their knees are bent and placed in front of them with their foot back by their bottom and facing outward away from their body forming a “W”.
The “W” sitting position is not an appropriate sitting position for children due to its ability to affect a child’s ability to reach their typical developmental milestones. For example, a child that “”W” sits can demonstrate difficulty with lateral (side to side) weight shifting and trunk rotation (ability to cross midline), which can affect their ability to balance and run appropriately later in life. The “W” sitting position can also lead to orthopedic concerns throughout the developmental process of the child, specifically dealing with the hips and knees. “W” sitting can also result in shortened and weakened muscles of the lower extremities, as well as placing the hips at risk for dislocation based on the positioning.
Children who prefer the “W” sitting position often display weak hip and or trunk flexors. Therefore, sitting in this position allows them to widen their base of support, adding stability to their sitting position in an effort to prevent the child from falling over. The best way to prevent a child from “W” sitting is to try and catch the child before they get into the position, however if they are already in the “W” sitting position it is best to help them move into a different position or tell them to “fix their legs”. Initially you may need to say “fix your legs” and move the child’s legs out of that position, with progression to the child being able to independently move themselves out of the position upon verbal prompting. More optimal positions the child may move into include long sitting (legs straight out in front), tailor sitting (criss cross applesauce), or side sitting (both legs to one side). Consistency is key to helping a child who prefers to “W” sit pick a more optimal and appropriate position.