What is W-sitting?

The child is seated on the floor with their knees bent, feet positioned outside of their hips and their bottom on the floor. When in this position, the child’s legs will resemble the shape of the letter ‘W’.

Why do children W-sit?

  • Children who have weak core muscles tend to W-sit as this position provides them with a wider base of support. In this position, children are able to hold themselves upright without having to work as hard on maintaining their balance.
  • Some children may be prone to W-sit due to anatomical differences of their hip joint where their thigh bone twists inwardly (femoral anteversion).
  • For other children, it may initially be a comfortable position to sit in, and then over time, they develop muscle tightness, making it uncomfortable to sit any other way.

What’s wrong with W-sitting?

  • Children depend less on their core muscles when they are W-sitting. This is because their wide base of support compensates for children having to activate their core. Without a stable core, a child’s shoulder and wrist stability may be weak, and this may affect their fine motor development.
  • In the W-sitting position, children have fewer opportunities to weight-shift side-to-side and rotate their trunk when attempting to reach out to play with toys on the floor.
  • Decreased trunk rotation also limits coordination between the left and right sides of the body. This can affect their ability to use two sides of the body at the same time (bilateral coordination), which is important for everyday activities such as writing, cutting, buttoning their shirts, or using utensils during meal times.
  • The W-sitting position causes stress on the hip and knee joints which can lead to long-term postural problems and low back pain.
  • Long-term W-sitting can tighten and shorten the muscles of the legs which can cause ‘pigeon-toed’ walking. This can then impact the child’s abilities in various gross-motor activities such as jumping, running, climbing, or riding a bike.

What you can do about it?

Encourage other forms of sitting by modelling or using verbal cues:

  • Cross-legged sitting: “criss-cross applesauce”
  • Long sitting: where the child’s legs are stretched out front of them
  • Side sitting: where the child’s knees are bent and both legs are pointing towards the same side of the body
  • Kneeling
  • Choose floor activities that encourage frequent changes in positioning.
  • If you have any concerns regarding your child’s sitting posture, contact an occupational therapist or physiotherapist for further consultation.