What is W sitting? W-sitting is when a child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and feet positioned outside of their hips. If you’re standing above your child, you will see their legs and body make the shape of a W.
Why Do Physical Therapists Not Like W Sitting? Prolonged W sitting can lead to the following issues:
- Hip Dislocation – If a child has hip problems, sitting in the W position can put strain on the hips and joints and increase the likelihood of dislocation.
- Limited Trunk/Core Strength – The wide sitting stance of the W position makes it easier to keep the body upright. Children sitting in a W position don’t have to use their core muscles as much and won’t develop them as they would in other sitting positions.
- Lack of Cross Body Movements – The W position makes it difficult for children to rotate their upper bodies and reach across to either side with one or both arms.
- No Hand Preference – In a W-sitting position, a child has too much trunk control and stability. It’s very easy to use either hand to accomplish tasks. However, developing hand preference is important for writing ability later on.
- Increased Muscle Tightness – If a child is prone to muscle tightness then sitting in a W position will increase tightness in hips, knees, and ankles.
Why Does My Child W Sit? A child could be W sitting for many reasons such as core/trunk weakness, excessive hip flexibility and/or joint hypermobility, or low muscle tone. They may also W sit because it is easier for them! With a wider base of support, it requires less muscle work.
What Can You Do About W Sitting?
Stretching Tight Muscles! With prolonged W sitting, some children can develop tight hip and leg muscles. Here are some ideas to try at home with your child!
- For Hamstrings: Consider a tug of war method. Start with you and your child sitting on the ground with straight legs, facing one another. Place the bottoms of your feet against the bottoms of your kid’s feet and reach for their hands, then gently pull them towards you, keeping legs straight. Check where they feel a stretch to ensure you’re stretching hamstrings instead of low back. They should feel the stretch along the back of their legs, not in their lower back.
- For Hips: Butterfly Stretch (shown in picture). 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. Hold for 15-20 seconds for 3 repetitions.
- For Ankles:
○ For a calf stretch, you can have your child sit or lie on their back. Holding your child’s foot in your hand, apply light pressure at the base of the toes and flex the foot up towards their head. Hold for 30 seconds once you feel resistance. There are two muscles in the calf, so keep their knee straight for a gastrocnemius muscle stretch, and you can bend their knee to stretch their soleus muscle.
○ To prevent toeing-in, start by holding your child’s heel with one hand. With the other hand hold the front of foot at the base of their toes, and gently pull toes in outward direction, toward the pinkie toe side.
Strengthening Weak Muscles! If your child W sits, they most likely have weak core and hip muscles. Here are some activities to try at home!
- Crab walking: To make it fun, place the child’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.
- Knee walking: Have your child knee walk back and forth between two tables several times to build a block tower or bring pieces of a toy. For example, you can place building blocks on one table and have the construction zone on the other table, or the piggy bank on one table and all the coins on the other, walking one object over at a time. This targets core stability and glute strengthening. An alternative activity is knee walking while pushing a weighted laundry basket to further engage tummy muscles!
- Hands and knees play: strengthens the core, with the added benefit of an arm workout! Kids will love playing with shaving cream or play dough, coloring or drawing, or even putting together a puzzle.
- Dead bug: Have your child lying on their back, arms and legs in the air. Try it with their knees bent at 90-degree angles or keeping legs straight. Balance a toy or bean bag on their feet or shins to encourage them to hold the position (“don’t let Teddy fall into the lava!”)
Lastly, Change The Position! Encourage the child to “fix their legs” by demonstrating different floor positions such as sitting with legs crossed, legs in front, or side sitting. Other positions may include offering a child a low bench or stool to sit on.