W-sitting is a sitting position in which a child sits with his/her bottom on the floor, with both feet turned out. All children will W-sit at one time or another, especially as they move in and out of positions when playing on the floor. W-sitting can be a typical part of development and play time, but it can become a concern when a parent notices that a child chooses this position more frequently than others. When a therapist evaluates a child who prefers to W-sit they often look for weakness in the the child’s trunk, difficulty with bilateral coordination, and muscle tightness in the legs.
W-sitting is a very stable position and children don’t have to use their core muscles or balance. Children who are weak in their core may choose this position to have enough stability to play with toys. W-sitting also limits the opportunities to practice trunk rotation and reaching across the body. Reaching across midline is needed for the development of bilateral coordination and awareness of both sides of the body. Additionally, children who prefer W-sitting typically only move forwards and backwards to get in and out of sitting. Moving in all directions is important to develop postural control, balance, and strength.
Children with certain conditions should avoid W-sitting. This includes children who have tight muscles, particularly their hamstrings and adductors. Spending time in W-sitting will increase tightness due to the position of the legs. Children who have neurological concerns or developmental delays should also avoid W-sitting and engage in activities that promote lateral rotational movement as well as bilateral coordination.
The best way to help W-sitting is to prevent it from becoming a habit in the first place. Encouraging a variety of positions during floor play helps a child’s development while teaching them alternative positions. Sitting criss-cross applesauce, side sitting, long sitting or playing on the side or tummy are great alternatives. If you notice a child preferring to W-sit, encourage them to “fix” or “change” their legs to a different position. Additionally, if you notice that a child consistently W-sits with a particular activity, setting up a station at a table with good support can help the child complete the activity while avoiding W-sitting.
If you have concerns about a child who prefers W-sitting, demonstrates other signs of core weakness, or has difficulty completing age-appropriate gross and fine motor activities, it can be helpful to bring up your concerns to a pediatrician or a pediatric therapist. Our pediatric physical and occupational therapists can help answer questions, screen or evaluation who present with signs of core weakness, and help families come up with alternative play positions.
We can be reached at (503) 496-0385 and work with families all over the Portland Metro area.
(Blog post courtesy of Crystal Bridges, DPT)