The w-sitting position is a term that describes a floor sitting posture in which the knees are bent and the feet are resting outside of the hips. The person’s bottom and pelvis rest on the floor between the feet.
What Parents Should Know About W-Sitting
I actually wish it was called “M-sitting” because when you either try it yourself or attempt to envision yourself doing it, your legs will actually make an M.
What is the W-Sitting Position?
You’ve likely seen your child or another child doing it, as it’s fairly common for kids up through around kindergarten age. Adults tend to think it’s cute because kids are usually content and occupied while in this position, playing with dolls or blocks or watching t.v. It probably makes you smile to think about…unless you’re a therapist. Then, you might just cringe a little.
Why do kids sit this way?
For one, it’s usually comfortable for them. For two, it’s often easier. Have you ever noticed yourself sitting in a chair with your shoulders hunched forward and your head tilted back a little so that your head just casually rests atop your upper back?
When we sit that way, we’re using the structure and stability of our bones rather than the strength of our muscles to hold us upright, and bones don’t really get tired. With w-sitting, kids are widening their “base of support” so they can stay sitting on the floor longer and with less effort.
Envision trying to balance a Christmas tree on the stump, alone. TIMBER! Now consider that when you place the tree in its stand, it can easily stay for more than a month. It is the base of support.
Should I worry if my kid sits this way?
There are differing opinions about whether or not w-sitting is needed for worry. As a therapist, I’ll say this: don’t necessarily worry but do nudge your child to change…and become a detective.
Does your child appear weak or frail or clumsy in other scenarios?
Does your child seem inattentive or have a low level of alertness?
Have physical milestones been delayed?
Can your child handle small items easily within their hands?
Does your child’s tongue protrude when she’s relaxing?
Bottom line: if your child has additional challenges AND w-sits, it is a good idea to talk to your pediatrician and ask about whether or not further assessment is appropriate.
What do you mean by “nudge my child to change”?
You can give your child a seat with back support, suggest he lie down on his belly, tell him to fix his feet, or show him another position and say, “try this instead”.
Criss-cross-applesauce is a fan favorite (the old “Indian style”) or straight sitting (feet straight out) or circle/ring sitting. Don’t make a battle over it. Just bring their attention to his body position. Whenever I see someone else suddenly sit up straight, I do the same. The power of suggestion is huge!
Oh no! My kid has those other things, too!
As with anything else, if you’re only just cueing into the fact that something may be delayed in your child, it’s likely not insurmountable. And all of those traits that I described above can also be used to describe mounds of successful and functional adults. Nonetheless, it will lower the risk of frustration and low self-esteem in your child if you can target these deficits earlier rather than later.
Possible underlying factors to w-sitting:
- Low Muscle Tone
- Decreased core strength
- Hip issues (related to joint, muscle, or bone)
- Sensory processing deficits (likely registration of input)
- Motor development delay
Ideas to Help a Child Who Is W-Sitting
Sometimes, one thing is all we can handle. So, for now, that’s what I’ll give you. One thing for each area:
- Low muscle tone (muscles may look flat or weak)— Have your child try 5 “burpees” before sitting. It’s easier to just Google it than for me to try to explain.
- Decreased core strength— Do the “Superman” pose every day and time it. Make a graph to motivate your kid to hold it longer and longer.
- Hip issues—definitely follow up with your doc
- Sensory processing deficits—add one sensory-rich experience to each day (swimming, running, swinging, climbing, biking)
- Motor development delay—make an appointment for a PT or OT eval. There are things you can do, but pediatric therapists can inevitably do more and in a shorter time. And if your kid qualifies for services, I can almost promise he or she will love it!