Is W Sitting Bad for Kids?

Child W sittingIf you’ve ever watched children playing with toys on the floor, you might have noticed some kids sitting with their legs bent and angled away from them on either side of their body (see the photo for this post for a visual example). This is called “W sitting” because the knees and legs form the shape of a W.

While it can be a totally normal part of development and nothing to worry about, our pediatric therapy experts note that W sitting can become a cause for concern if a child practices it constantly and doesn’t play in any other positions.

Here are the answers to a few essential questions that can help parents and caretakers understand W sitting and determine if it might interfere with their child’s development.

Why do children practice W sitting?
There are various reasons why kids play in this position. Some of them are cause for concern while others are completely normal, according to the blog CanDo Kiddo, whose author is both a parent and a pediatric occupational therapist.

Here are some perfectly fine reasons why a small child might W sit.

  • It’s the most stable sitting position for carrying out tasks that involve fine motor skills/precise movements of their hands and fingers.
  • It’s a good transitional position, especially for babies. W sitting is the fastest way to go from crawling to sitting, as CanDo Kiddo explains.
  • Kids might W sit simply because they’re flexible enough to do so. As we become adults, we’re generally not limber enough anymore to W sit.

However, some children W sit for more worrying reasons, including the following:

  • They have hypotonicity, or low muscle tone, which makes it more difficult for them to sit upright in other positions.
  • They have tight leg muscles (especially hamstrings).
  • They have a difficult time twisting their torso, which makes it harder to get out of sitting positions.

Additionally, if a child doesn’t already have these issues, W sitting all the time could lead to the following developmental issues, according to Dinosaur Physical Therapy.

  • Bad posture
  • Problems balancing due to less activation of the trunk muscles
  • Less exploration and movement between different positions
  • Tight hamstrings, hip dislocation, and/or tibial torsion (i.e., the shin bones twisting inward)

How do I know if my child’s W sitting is a problem?
If you’re wondering whether your child’s W sitting is nothing to worry about or a sign of a potential issue, you can observe them as they play to see if they show any other symptoms of muscle tightness or low tone, according to CanDo Kiddo.

Those signs include feet that turn in or out, abnormal walking, a rounded back when sitting, and/or being unable to sit with their legs extended and knees straight. If you’re unsure whether your child’s W sitting is cause for concern, visiting a pediatric physical therapist can help.

What should I do if my child’s W sitting is an issue?
If your child W sits too much, there are a few ways to correct them, including moving their feet into a different position for them while giving them a verbal cue and/or just using verbal suggestions like “feet in front” or “fix your feet.”

You can also introduce your child to different positions to sit and play in, such as criss cross sitting, butterfly pose, lying on their tummy, and more. Dino Physical Therapy illustrates a number of alternative positions.

If you’d like to learn more about W sitting, don’t hesitate to contact the pediatric therapists at Little Steps. Our team of pediatric professionals is focused on providing comprehensive, compassionate care to children of all ages. Find out more about us by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.

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