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Navigating W Sitting in Children

By Corinne Robertson

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. This makes a W shape when looking from above, hence the name!

Should I be worried if my child W sits?

W sitting can be a transitional position for children when moving around on the floor during play, usually between the ages of three to six years. If your child is frequently spending prolonged periods of time in this position it is important to consider why this may be and what impact it could have on their development.

What impact can W sitting have on development?

Decreased core activation – W sitting increases the base of support (the points of contact with the ground and the area between, a larger base of support will be more stable) and can reduce the work of the core muscles in a seated position. It reduces the requirement to weight shift and rotates for play, which is important in building the abdominal musculature and in strengthening balance and righting reactions.

Poor posture – W sitting encourages excessive posterior pelvic tilt, where the pelvis tilts backwards and causes a rounded back or ‘slouching’ in sitting. This reduces the activation of important postural muscles and therefore encourages this poor posture.

In-toeing/pigeon-toed walking – W sitting increases your child’s internal rotation (turning in) of their hips. This can cause tightness through the hip internal rotators and weakness in the hip external rotators, which could lead to the turning in of feet throughout walking. The hip external rotators are important muscles which contribute to balance and power during walking, running and playing!

Delayed fine motor development and coordination – As mentioned previously, W sitting reduces trunk rotation which will limit any cross-body movements and impair your child’s ability to use both right and left sides of the body for activities. These skills are important in building coordination and developing hand preferences.

What can you do?

Consult with your Key Worker – W sitting is best tackled with a transdisciplinary approach as there are multiple factors and body systems that can contribute to the why! In order to discover why your child is W sitting you may need an assessment from an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist, who will also provide some strategies to address the underlying cause.

Your Key Worker and Transdisciplinary Team can assist you in addressing your child’s W sitting, by providing some alternative seating options, hip stretches, core exercises or some more fine motor activities. Ongoing check-ins will be organised with your team to see how the strategies are going and whether any changes or updates need to be made. Repetition and consistency are key, so it is important that this is consistent throughout your child’s daily routine!

About the author

Corinne is a Paediatric Physiotherapist and Key Worker here at KEO Care. She has extensive experience working with children in a community setting with a range of different diagnoses, including developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder or congenital/neurological conditions. Corinne is passionate about working collaboratively with families to establish goals and decide how best to achieve them as a family!