Parents might find their young children sitting in the so called “W” position.
It is when they kneel on the floor but with their legs fanning out in a “W” shape. It is common because children find it gives them extra stability when busy doing things on the floor.
My own daughter used to do this and I was always worried about her circulation being affected.
However, it seems that there are more important potential problems to worry about.
What are the potential problems with W-sitting?
- Orthopedic problems. This is because of the unnecessary and unnatural amount of stress on the knees and hips and, because children do not need to reach as much, there can be a reduction in their ability to swivel their body.
- Delayed development of postural control and stability because your child’s spine can be put into a curved position, the stress from which can affect the hip abductors, hamstrings, internal rotators and the heel cords.
- Delayed development of refined motor skills.
- W-sitting can also discourage your child from developing a hand preference because he or she is less inclined to reach across the body and instead picks up objects on the right with the right hand and on the left with the left hand.
- W-sitting is hard on the knees and hips and can cause excessive forces on the joints or ligaments damage. Children who constantly W-sit have more shallow hip sockets.
- Major muscle groups become very tight, possibly even causing pigeon-toed walking.
Therefore W-sitting is not recommended if used excessively. If you can encourage your children to use other sitting positions, they develop the trunk control and rotation necessary for reaching across the body as well as the separation of the two sides of the body. Both these skills help a young child to develop refined motor skills and hand dominance.
Why do children W-sit?
Then tend to rely on this position for added trunk and hip stability to make it easier to move and play with their toys especially those that are in front of them but W-sitting does not work for twisting and turning to reach toys on either side.
It’s easy to see why this position appeals to so many children.
How to prevent W-sitting
- Ideally, anticipate and catch it before the child even learns to W-sit.
- Encourage your child to assume alternative sitting positions.
- If your child discovers W-sitting anyway, help him to move to another sitting position with a reminder "to fix his legs". Be consistent.
- When playing with your child on the floor, hold his or her knees and feet together when kneeling or creeping on hands and knees. Your child will either sit to one side, or sit back on his feet; he can then be helped to sit over to one side from there (try to encourage sitting over both the right and left sides). You will be setting and encouraging patterns that demand a certain amount of trunk rotation and lateral weight shift.
- If you find that your child is unable to sit alone in any position other than a W, it may be advisable to consult an occupational therapist for their help and guidance. Sitting against the sofa may be one alternative; a small table and chair is another.
If you see your child temporarily sitting in this position, or using it as a transition stage to move in and out of other sitting positions or movements, it is fine.
What is not fine is if your child sits in this position for extended periods of time while playing on the floor.
W-sitting can be a sign of poor balance and/or poor coordination. You child needs both these skills not only to ride a bike, jump or play ball, but to read, write and speak.