Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

October 6, 2022

W- Sitting in Children

By: Madison McClure, DPT

What is W-sitting and is it something that should be addressed?

“W-sitting” is often used to describe a sitting position where a child’s bottom is on the floor with their feet splayed out next to their hips forming a “w” shape with their legs and knees.

While this may seem like a harmless sitting position for your child, it could actually indicate muscle weakness and potentially create negative long-term effects. It may be something to look into if you notice this position becoming preferred or frequently used.

Some of these effects could include:

  • These children are often seeking stability in sitting due to core weakness or decreased sitting balance and find that this wide base of support allows them to sit for longer. Sitting in this manner can start a cycle of muscle weakness and poor posture that is difficult to break. W-sitting allows the tummy and back muscles to “turn off” and increases slouching in the pelvis and throughout the whole spine. It can also lead to poor posture while sitting in a chair or standing up.
  • W-sitting may cause muscle shortening in hamstrings, adductors, internal rotators, and/or heel cords which may limit the ability to sit in other ways.
  • W-sitting places the hips in a position of extreme internal rotation (turned in) which can change the position of the hip and the thigh bone. It can also cause the shin bone to rotate inwards.
  • Kids can often get “stuck” in this position because it makes it difficult to transition to other positions such as kneeling or crawling.
  • When their legs and hips are locked in this position, your child is not able to rotate their torso as easily as they should. It is also harder to use cross body movements. This limits your child to only playing in midline and may limit acquisition of higher level fine motor skills.
  • W-sitting may be correlated with delayed gross motor skills. A w-sitter may have a harder time learning to walk, run, or jump. Additionally, their toes may turn in while they are walking.
  • Lastly, the cycle of core weakness and lack of mobility may lead to back or hip pain as your child grows up.

If you notice your child in this w-sit position, try reminding them of other sitting positions they can choose:

  • Side Sitting (knees bent and together resting towards one side)
    • A favorite position!
      • Encourages tummy and back muscles to turn on
      • Great for transitioning to other functional positions
      • Facilitates cross body movements
      • Great for hip mobility
  • Tailor sitting or “crisscross apple sauce”
  • Laying on their belly
  • Butterfly pose (with the bottoms of their feet together in front of them and knees out to the side)
  • Long sitting (legs straight out in front of them)
  • Tall kneel (on their knees with their bottom in the air)

Please reach out to our team of physical therapists if you have questions or concerns!