W-sitting is a position of sitting on the floor – the child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and rotated on the floor behind them in the shape of a W.
Many children w-sit. It is perfectly normal for a child to move in and out of w-sitting throughout their day while playing on the floor. All children should be discouraged from sitting in this position. For some children it can become the primary way of sitting and can hinder their overall development. Children with low muscle tone, hyper-mobility in the joints, or decreased balance and trunk control are more likely to use w-sitting as their primary sitting posture.
W-sitting provides the child with a stable trunk and hips, which allows the child more freedom to use their hands to play without challenging their balance. This position limits active trunk control and development of the trunk muscles for independent sitting. If the child prefers to sit in this manner, it may be difficult to change the habit due to decreased strength in the trunk.
Persistent w-sitting can cause (1) problems with decreased stability in the trunk and hips, (2) orthopedic issues with the hips, knees and feet, (3) and/or tightness or contractures in the hamstrings, hip adductors, internal rotators, and heel cords. W-sitting can also decrease the amount of rotation of the trunk and crossing the midline of the body, which is essential to development of hand dominance and refinement of motor skills.
Prevention is the key.
Keep a watchful eye on your children or students and prevent them from forming a habit of sitting in this position. Habits are very difficult to break. If you have a child or student that already prefers a w-sitting position, provide alternative sitting positions. Verbal cues to “fix your legs” or “fix your sitting” may be helpful. Tailor sitting (criss-cross applesauce), long sitting (legs straight in front), and side sitting (legs bent to either side) are all alternative sitting positions but may be challenging initially to a child’s balance.
If you have a child who refuses to sit in any other position, I would recommend getting them off the floor and sitting in a chair, playing at a table, or sitting on a bench.
If you have concerns about your child w-sitting, consult an experienced pediatric occupational therapist for a trunk strengthening program.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
From our family to yours,
Melissa Hough, OTR/L, C/NDT
Melissa Hough, OTR/L, C/NDT is an occupational therapist with over 20 years of pediatric experience and certifications in Sensory Integration (SI) and Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT). Melissa has a professional and personal perspective when working with children because she is also the adoptive parent of a child with special needs.
Since 2002, Children’s Therapy Center, PSC has served thousands of families in Louisville, Kentucky, by providing high-quality therapy services and parent education.