“W-sitting” or “W-sit” is a term used to describe a sitting position in which a child sits on the floor with their legs forming a “W” shape on the floor (knees bent, legs rotated and facing away from the body).
When is it acceptable?
Children often move into and out of this position during play or when transitioning from crawling to sitting. W-sitting is OK and perfectly normal if used in this way. It temporarily widens the base of support, giving the child a greater sense of stability and balance during play.
When is it NOT acceptable?
However, this position should not be encouraged for prolonged periods of time during play as it will lead to future orthopedic and muscular-skeletal issues, affecting muscles and joints of the back and lower limb. Long-term W-sitting is NOT encouraged as it will make the child become reliant on this position for added trunk/hip stability to allow for easier toy manipulation and play. Their trunk muscles will not be activated sufficiently for them to learn and practice weight shifts during rotation and lateral (side) movements of the body.
W-sitters are often children with:
- Low muscle tone
- Hypermobile joints
- Difficulty with balance
- Side effects of W-sitting:
- May develop sway back posture
- Walk and stand with feet turned inwards
- Weak trunk and low back muscles
- Tight hamstrings and low back muscles
Why do children choose to W-sit?
In W-sitting the legs are rotated outwards and spread wide apart. This means that there is a larger base of support and hence less work required by the trunk muscles to stabilize the body. The trunk muscles are important for maintaining an upright posture and reacting to shifts in balance. Possibly these children have not developed sufficient trunk rotation (twisting) or lateral flexion (bending to side) for weight shifts and so relies heavily on the wide base of support for maintaining stability during physical activity and play.
Correcting the Habit
Often W-sitting becomes a habit very quickly and it is important to address it promptly.
Encourage other ways of sitting:
- Side-sitting with both legs out to one side (make sure they alternate the side)
- Sitting with legs straight out forward as able (hamstrings can be stretched at the same time)
- Sitting on a low stool or a cushion