What is Wrong with “W” Sitting?

A few weeks ago, an article about W sitting in children began circulating around various social media sites and began to raise more awareness about this body position.  As occupational therapists, we are acutely aware of this position and understand the concerns associated with it. However, it is our responsibility to educate parents and families about these types of concerns and introduce strategies to modify or alter them in order to encourage a proper body position during seated tasks. So, what exactly is “W” sitting, and why is it such an important topic to address?

Take a look at this great handout about W sitting by Inspired Treehouse:

What is “W” sitting?

 “W” sitting occurs when a child sits on his bottom with both knees bent and each leg positioned on either side of the body, next to each hip. If you stood above a child seated in this position, it would look like his legs form a “W” shape. This seated position provides a greater base of support for the child and allows for increased stability in the lower extremities. However, when seated in this position, the child does not have to elicit his core muscles to maintain an upright posture.

Why is this a Concern?

When a child sits in the “W” position, he does not utilize his core muscles to achieve trunk rotation or shift his weight to reach for his toys.  Without the activation of core musculature, a child may have decreased core strength and postural control which are important foundational motor skills needed for further growth and development. A child who is unable to shift his weight or rotate his trunk is likely to have difficulties with balance, crossing midline, and using both sides of his body together (bilateral coordination).  This delay in skill development may directly affect a child’s functional skills in his home and school environments.

 How Can You Help?

If you notice your child “W” sitting, you can encourage him to position his body in different sitting styles. Show your child how to sit in the criss-cross position, side sit, or sit with his legs extended in front of his body. Do avoid telling your child to “fix your legs” as there is nothing “broken”. Instead you can tell the child how they can sit: “legs in front” or “one leg in front”. If you “side sit” with one leg behind in hald of the “W” position and one leg bent in front of you, you will see that most of your body weight is on the hip with the leg in front, thus placing less strain on the hip that is rotated internally. Additionally, introduce core strengthening activities that will help your child develop the postural control needed to assume an upright seated posture using his core muscles, rather than his legs and bottom to maintain the seated position.

Siobhan Stellato, MS OTR/L