"W Sitting" is a sitting position that some children may naturally try out when they are playing on the floor, and this is OK as long as they are moving in and out of many different sitting positions. It’s more of a concern, if a child prefers to W-sit.
When children W-sit it gives them a wide base of support. Meaning with their feet behind them they don’t have to work as hard to keep their body sitting up straight. It’s harder to fall over to the left or right side. A child is simply problem solving, “I fall over easily, so I’m going to make my base wider!"
The problem is when children sit like this the muscles that should be keeping them up right aren’t working like they should. Those are your tummy and back muscles, or your core. So basically, a child is not working as hard to engage their core and hold their body up. When a child W sits their joints are working more and their core muscles less.
W-sitting may cause a ripple effect of problems. First, when a child is playing it’s really important that they are able to easily move across the right and left sides of their body to get toys. W- sitting reduces this, so they don’t learn to use her left and right side of their body as well. W- sitting reduces the need to balance, so they aren’t practicing their balance responses like they should be - their knees and ankles are doing all the work for them! Overall, the child will have reduced coordination. A child learns coordination at a very young age when they’re just starting to sit! Not learning this could affect their coordination throughout their lifetime.
Why do children W sit? Here are some common reasons:
• Low tone
• Generalized muscle weakness
• Sensory concerns
• Decreased fine motor and gross motor coordination
So what should we do about W sitting?
First, prolong W sitting is usually an indication that the child needs to be evaluated by physical or occupational therapy. This is very important! During that evaluation, your motor therapist will help you understand the reason why your child may be W sitting and suggestions to help. Some of those suggestions may be::
Try these healthier ways to sit:
Long-sit: long sitting is when your child’s feet are straight out in front of them. If this is hard, you can start with your child’s back against a wall or steady surface- which would be supported sitting. You could also try making their legs in a small V in front them!
Side-sit: when side sitting your child has both knees bent to the same side. This shifts their weight onto one hip. This gives them a little bit of a wide base, but is safer for their joints. When side sitting a child can still move right and left, and practice balancing. They can still practice coordination in this position.
Cross-legged, or “criss-cross applesauce”: criss-cross applesauce is when your child sits with feet crossed in front of them, and knees apart. This is the most advanced way a child can sit and they are using their core muscles to hold them upright! In criss-cross applesauce they can easily reach to the left into the right, which develops coordination and balance skills. This is why preschool classes have children sit criss-cross applesauce!