W-Sitting: What is it and how to correct it?
what is w-sitting and why should i correct it?
As a therapist, there are certain phrases I use pretty regularly with most of the kids I treat. “Fix your feet” is one of them. W-sitting refers to a sitting position where the child is sitting on their bottom with both their knees bent and their legs turned out away from their body. If you were to look at the child from above their head, his or her legs will be in the shape of the letter “W.”
For many children this is a preferred way of sitting because it provides them with a wide base of support and will compensate for weakness in the trunk and core that may make sitting upright difficult.
sometimes it's acceptable
Ok, hear me out. The W position is completely normal (and common) when transitioning from one position to another while playing on the floor. No need to panic, just watch and see if they change positions or remain w sitting for an extended period of time.
It becomes a problem when it is the only way they sit and this is why;
→ Long term W sitting can shorten and tighten the muscles in the legs. This can lead to pigeon toed walking which will have an effect on the child’s ability to perform gross motor activities.
→ W sitting decreases the opportunity for trunk rotation and weight shifting when reaching out to play. The decreased rotation can lead to decreased bilateral coordination or the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time.
- Decreased bilateral coordination can affect completing fine motor tasks such as handwriting and cutting once they are school aged.
→ Increased stress is put on the hip and knee joints. In a growing kid, this is obviously something we do not want.
how i fix w-sitting
The great thing about my therapy setting is I am in the school system. Treating kids from the ages of 3-21 meaning the kids I treat will be with me for years and get accustomed to my phrases and therapy techniques.
The phrase I teach them is “fix your feet”.
When a child is W sitting, I will ask them to sit like me (showing them to sit criss cross or long sit) then I will say, “fix your feet” as they correct their position. After a while, I can simply say “fix your feet” and they will automatically correct their sitting position and slowly break the habit of W sitting. This also allows the child to not be physically corrected in front of people, we all know they hit certain ages where being corrected in public would be the end of the world.
In addition to correcting W sitting it is a good idea to incorporate activities that will engage the core muscles (The Importance of Core Control blog post has some idea) and increase bilateral coordination and crossing midline while playing, this will increase weight shifting which W sitting does not allow, they will naturally not be able to sit in that position and participate.
If you see that your child W sits it’s not the end of the world! It is extremely common in children and easily fixable once it’s noticed and effort is put into correcting it. Make it fun! This is your chance to use floor playtime and games to fix posture. Engage with your child! Not only will their posture and strength benefit so will your relationship!