What is w-sitting, and why is it bad for your child?
W-sitting is essentially just as it sounds. The child will sit with their legs in a position that resembles the letter "w."
When sitting, some children will sit on their bottoms with both their hips and knees bent and turned inward. The inside of both legs will touch the sitting surface. Babies will occasionally use this position while playing and exploring, but when prolonged and long-term use of this position persists, there can be a negative impact on the body.
When w-sitting becomes a habit, it can interfere with a child's muscle and skeletal growth, as well as the advancement of higher level mobility and fine motor skills. We might not realize it, but core strength is important to us and part of our everyday life in so many ways! It is essential for the progression of other developmental skills, and is the center of control for everything else the body does. What exactly do we need core strength for? Keeping our balance, using both hands together, sitting up in a chair, using a pencil or scissors, and so much more!
So why do some children make a habit of w-sitting? The answer is simple: children who rely on w-sitting generally have issues with seated balance and have decreased core strength in the torso. Children with muscle tone that is too high (stiff) or too low (floppy) might rely on w-sitting to keep themselves upright. The problem here is that an over-reliance on this position will make some muscles too tight, and other muscles over-stretched. The child will not experience shifts of movement, which is essential for balancing skills.
If you notice your child relying on this type of seated position, what can you do to correct it? Don't worry! With a little bit of work, it can be corrected! Don't expect the change to be quick and immediate, but do work consistently to ease their reliance. The best way to prevent w-sitting from becoming a issue is to try to encourage different positions before it becomes a deep-rooted habit.
Gently encourage your child to sit in another position, and keep giving prompts and reminders as needed. Help your child to do long sitting, side sitting, cross legged sitting, laying on the belly or elbows, or tummy time (see images below). Gradually model these positions (or shift your child into them as needed) while playing on the floor. If you notice that your child can't sit upright without using the w-position, correct the position and offer extra support with a pillow, or have them sit up against the couch or wall. This allows your child to build core strength and balance with the necessary support.
If your child is currently receiving therapy, ask your therapist for more individualized tips for building strength. There are so many fun ways we can help children build core strength through everyday play!