What is “W” sitting?
W-Sitting is when a child sits with their knees folded over in front of them, placing their feet and ankles on either side of their hips. This position is known as a W-sitting because it creates a W shape. It’s pretty common for toddlers to play in the W sitting position. It typically only becomes an issue if your child W sits often or if it is their proffered position to sit.
At Little Scholars we support the development of our children through various ways to circumvent W-sitting.
Why do children/toddlers W sit?
• Children who have weak core muscles tend to W-sit as this position provides them 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 maybe be prone to W-sit due to anatomical differences of their hip joint where their thigh bone twists inwardly (femoral anteversion)
• For some 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 active their core without a stable core; a child’s shoulder and wrist stability may be weak, and this maybe a effect 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 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 can you do about W-sitting at home ?
• To stretch hips, try the butterfly stretch! W sitting is internal hip rotation, so we need to stretch those hips in the opposite direction. Sit on the ground with your child in front of you, with the bottoms of their feet touching. Use your legs around your child’s legs in the same position to keep them close and calm. With your hands, apply gentle pressure to both your child’s knees toward the ground.
What are some core exercises to help correct W-sitting ?
• Crab position – To make it fun, place kiddo’s feet on sliders or paper plates and have your child straighten one leg at a time to destroy a block tower, knock over a bowling pin, or kick a ball.
• Ankle art – With your child lying on their back and propped up on their elbows, place a balloon or ball between their ankles. With their knees and hips bent, have them draw a rainbow with their feet moving in an arch. For older kids, have them write out the ABCs or their name with their feet!
BREAK THE HABIT
Breaking habits is hard, especially when it comes to W sitting. Below are some tricks that you could use with your child.
- “Feet in front please” – or “Feet forward please” – these help when repositioning your child into a ring sit, long sit, tailor sit, otherwise known as “crisscross applesauce”
- “Feet are friends, they stay together” – this one is great for repositioning your child into a side sit, also know as mermaid sit.
- “Sit on your bottom please” – works for any alternative sitting position your child may choose.
- Long sitting – where the child’s legs are stretched out front of them.
To wind up, providing these consistent verbal cues as you reposition your child’s legs will help them train them to eventually respond to the verbal cue by repositioning their legs themselves.