Lots of kids sit on their bottom with their legs splayed on either side of them.
This is often called ‘W sitting’ and while you might think that your flexible son or daughter is very clever, their sitting position is actually not very good for them at all, as Kids First’s occupational therapists explain below.
Kids’ muscles and joints were not made to sit in a W shape
As occupational therapists working with children, we love to see strong, flexible children who are building foundations for a healthy, active life.
But when we see children who sit with their legs in a ‘W’ position, we need to move quickly to help them learn to sit in a new way.
This is because ‘W sitting’ can have a big impact on a child’s hips, knees and ankles if they habitually sit in this position every time they are on the floor.
Young joints are easily damaged
You may not realise it, but when your child sits in a ‘W position’, their hips rotate into quite an extreme angle.
The muscles and ligaments on the outside of their hips are over-stretched and those on the inside of their hips tighten up.
This is not good for any body, and especially not for young bodies.
Young children’s bones are quite soft when they are young. When children are aged under 10, their bodies are still developing the capacity to support them for the next 80 years or more.
Because your child’s bones will harden over time, it’s important to get their posture right when they are very young.
If your child ‘W sits’ and their joints are frequently positioned incorrectly, they run the risk of several physical issues as they get older;
- W sitting could contribute to your child being knock- kneed
- W sitting could affect your child’s developing balance
- W sitting could contribute to your child being ‘pigeon-toed’ (with their toes face in, instead of straight)
- W sitting could impact on your child’s coordination and later ability to confidently play games and sports
Why is your child ‘W sitting’?
Some children ‘W sit’ because the muscles in the trunk of their body are not strong enough to provide them with the stability they need to sit still.
If this is the case for your child, your son or daughter may be ‘W sitting’ because they are using their hips to compensate for their lack of core strength.
Why kids need core strength
We all need core strength to perform the tasks of life, such as sitting at a table to eat a meal or desk to work.
We need core strength to maintain our focus on an activity and also to have the stamina to work on something for a period of time.
As occupational therapists, we frequently support children whose poor core strength limits their ability to do the things that other kids do, such as stay in one place, concentrate on a task or attend to activities in the classroom or playground.
The good news is, if you recognise your child’s tendency to ‘W sit’ as a sign of an underlying issue, you can help your child to build the core strength they need so that can learn better posture that will allow them to participate in floor-based learning and play in a healthier way.
How to help your child break the habit of ‘’W sitting’
Just like adults, it can be tricky to help a child to break a bad, and in this case, potentially damaging habit.
When you see your child ‘W sitting’ the key is to provide positive alternatives without giving your child a negative message.
Strategies you might like to try include:
- Using pillows, cushions or a beanbag to support your child’s posture as they play
- Giving your child opportunities to strengthen their core muscles with games that require them to climb and reach
- Showing your child how to sit in other ways, such as with both of their legs crossed or out to one side
It’s important to remember that no child ‘W sits’ because they are being deliberately naughty or defiant and it goes without saying that children respond much better to positive messages than negative ones.
When you find your child sitting in the wrong position, the best thing to do is to offer simple reminders that tell your son or daughter what to do, rather than what not to do.
For example, instead of saying ‘don’t sit like that’ you could say:
- ‘don’t forget to sit on your bottom’
- ‘remember, feet out’
- ‘cross your legs, please’
- ‘let’s fix your legs’
Eventually, if reminders are offered in a calm and encouraging way, your child will learn to correct their position on their own.
And don’t forget, praise is the thing that will encourage your child to keep trying.
When you notice that your child has re-positioned their legs or chose to sit in a different way, make sure you notice and tell them that they are going a great job!
Get professional advice
If you are concerned about your child’s ‘W sitting’ or any aspect of their posture, coordination or physical function, we encourage you to seek professional advice from your family doctor or an allied health professional such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
Much can be done to support children when they are young, and with knowledge about what your child needs, you will be equipped to help your child make positive changes that could be life-changing.
© 2018 Kids First Children’s Services
Occupational Therapy at Kids First
Kids First’s occupational therapists have helped hundreds of children to overcome the physical and learning limitations caused by issues like ‘W sitting’.
If you live in Sydney’s northern beaches, feel free to take advantage of our Gap Free Screenings for new clients.
Gap Free OT Screenings are offered Monday to Friday at our centre in Brookvale.
Please contact us on 9938 5419 or complete the ‘Contact Us’ form below.