By Ina Joshi, DPT
"Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse
You may see your child sit with their legs and feet out to the side. This is the "W-sit". Their knees are bent and their bottom is on the floor.
W-sitting gives children a lot of stability. In this position, their legs allow for greater surface area on the floor than other positions. Children normally move in and out of this position when playing, especially when they are moving around a lot. This is not problematic and is completely typical!
Sometimes, children start to sit in this position frequently and for extended amounts of time when they are coloring, playing a puzzle, or reading. Children with low tone or inadequate postural stability tend to use this sitting posture more frequently. Their bodies are just being efficient, finding the most stable position when their postural muscles are too tired to hold them up straight in other sitting positions.
Even though they are being efficient, sitting this way can cause problems, leading to tight muscles and abnormal pressure on the hips and knees. W-sitting compounds any tight muscles your child may have, especially in the hamstrings, hip abductors, internal rotators, and heel cords.
W-sit is such a stable position, it is too stable! It puts the pelvis in a blocked position, which makes it hard to turn the trunk when playing. This limits how children use their hands to reach across their body, an important task to learn spatial awareness. W-sit is so stable, it makes it hard for children to transition into other positions, limiting dynamic play.
Written below are some suggestions to help steer your child away from the W-sit position
Say to your child, "Can I see you feet?" or "Where are your feet? I don't see them."
Say, "Sit like me" and demonstrate these positions: long sit, criss-cross, tailor sit
Play in prone (on the stomach) or in side propping/side sitting
Use a small bench or a child's chair with hips and knees in 90 degree angles
If your child has difficulty sitting in positions other than W-sit, consult with your child's pediatrician.