W-sitting is when a child sits with their legs tucked behind them and out to the side forming the shape of a W. The W-position is one of many sitting positions that most children move into and out of while playing, but it can be a sign of poor trunk and pelvic control in some children if it is used excessively.
When playing in different sitting postures, children develop the trunk control and rotation necessary for reaching across the body. These skills are needed for a child to develop motor skills and hand dominance.
W-sitting is not recommended for anyone. Many developing children do move through this position during play, but all parents should be aware that the excessive use of this position during the growing years can lead to future orthopedic problems.
Why do children W-sit?
- They don’t want to worry about keeping their balance when they’re concentrating on a toy.
- It fixes the trunk and allows the child easier play in front, but not to the side or rotating the trunk.
- Children who are frequent W-sitters often rely on this position for added trunk and hip stability to allow easier toy manipulation and play.
It’s easy to see why this position is liked by so many children, but continued reliance on W-sitting can prevent a child from developing movement patterns necessary for higher-level skills such as running.
Who should not W-sit?
For most children, W-sitting should always be discouraged. This position should be avoided especially if a child has any one of the following issues:
- There are orthopedic concerns. W-sitting can predispose a child to hip dislocation or deformities of the hip joint.
- If there is muscle tightness, W-sitting will aggravate it. If a child is prone to tightness, encourage another pattern of sitting.
- There are neurologic concerns or developmental delays. If a child has increased muscle tone (hypertonia, spasticity), W-sitting will feed into the abnormal patterns of movement trying to be avoided (by direction of the child’s therapist). Using other sitting postures will aid in the development of more desirable movement patterns.
- W-sitting can also discourage a child from developing a hand preference. Since there is no trunk rotation taking place when W-sitting, a child is less inclined to reach across the body and instead picks up objects on the right with the right hand, and those placed to the left with the left hand.
How to prevent W-sitting.
The most effective and easiest way to prevent a problem with W-sitting is to prevent it from becoming a habit in the first place. Catch it before the child even learns to W-sit. Children should be placed and taught to assume alternative sitting positions. If a child discovers W-sitting, help him to move to another sitting position, or say, “Fix your legs.” It’s very important to be as consistent as possible. Encourage your child to sit to one side, or sit back on his feet. Try to encourage sitting over both the right and left sides.
If your child is unable to sit alone in any position other than a W, talk with one of our therapists about alternative positions. If you believe your child has difficulties with certain movements or is not keeping up with their peers, call us today to talk with one of our therapists.