W-Sitting in Toddlers, a Big No-no!


W-Sitting position is a pretty common sight among kids whenever they play. We might have thought that as much as it is normal, it is also harmless. We are wrong. Studies have shown that W-Sitting does more harm to our children’s posture than we could imagine.

What is W-sitting?
W-sitting is when a child sits with their bottom on the floor, knees bent, legs rotated outwards, and one leg to either side of their pelvis. So basically their sitting position forms the letter “W”.

Why do kids sit this way?
The W-sitting position feels more stable than other sitting positions as it widens the child’s base of support. This way, the core musculature does not need to work as hard to keep the child in an upright position. Children who preferably sit this way usually have lower muscle tone, hypermobile joints, and difficulty with balance. These kids may have more hip ligament laxity that allows them to have a greater than normal range of motion but less joint stability.

Why is this such a bad posture?It is never ok to be sitting like this for a prolonged period of time, and should be stopped immediately whenever you see it. There are a few postural and developmental reasons for this, and I’ll go into some detail on all of them:
Hip Distortion
Knee and Foot Distortion
Poor Development of Core Muscles
Lack of Cross-Body Coordination

If the child is using W-sitting briefly to transition from one position to another or transitions in and out of this position then it is not usually a problem. However, if your child uses the W-sitting position all the time for prolonged periods, this can lead to a significant amount of pressure being placed on their hips, knees, and ankles. Over time, this amount of pressure on the joints can lead to problems such as sway back postures, walking and standing with the feet turned inwards, weak trunk and lower back musculature, tight hamstring and lower back muscles, and possibly in some cases when there is a predisposition it may lead to hip dislocation.
There is another developmental issue at hand with W-sitting as children who prefer to use this position regularly will not need to shift their weight and rotate their trunk while playing. Weight shifting and trunk rotation are important in the development of balance, crossing the midline with the hands, and using both hands together. All of these skills are necessary for the development of fine motor skills.

How can you reduce W-sitting with your child?
Suggest to your child to sit cross-legged or with the legs to one side rather than W-sit. (However, make sure if your child prefers to sit with the legs to one side that it is not always to the same side). If this is difficult, have the child sit at a small table with an appropriately sized chair when performing their activities. Another suggestion is to have the child sit on the floor with their legs straight in front with a tray on their lap as a work surface. An exercise program from a chiropractor to develop core strength and increase muscle tone may be helpful as well.

*If a child is unable to sit alone in any position other than a “W”, talk with an occupational therapist about supportive seating or alternative positions such as prone and side-lying. Sitting against the couch while playing may be one alternative, as well as using a small table and chair. A therapist will have many other ideas based on each individual child.

Sources: North Shore Pediatric Therapy,YummyMummyClub.ca, Align Chiropractic Healthcare Centre
Image: Local Physio