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Is W-sitting bad for my child?

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Do you have a child who sits in the W position? The W-sitting position is so called because it resembles the letter W. A child sits on their bottom with legs spread out either side, with knees bent to the ground and feet pointing outwards.

It is common for children up to 8 years of age to move in and out of this position. Children like to sit in this position because it offers stability and is secure.

W sitting is when a child sits on the floor knees together and feet pointing outwards

Until recently, the guidance was that the position could cause long-term hip problems because of the pressure on lower joints. Kites Physiotherapist Kathryn says it’s not as harmful as many imagine.

“When a child adopts W-sitting, the hip joint moves away from the leg bone to create a space. For children less mobile with conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, experts felt the W position could weaken muscles and overstretch the ligaments,” she explains.

“However, as with everything, it’s all about moderation. All day, every day isn’t advisable because the skeletal system isn’t fully developed, but now and then, it will not cause problems. The myth about avoiding the W position lives on, but studies show it doesn’t cause future problems such as hip dislocations or osteoarthritis issues in typically developing children.”

W-sitting – separating fact from fiction

  • Don’t worry if your child sits in the W position for short periods.
  • It’s normal for children to move in and out of W-sitting during play.
  • When children reach the age of eight, they will have less flexibility. It will be harder for them to adopt that position anyway.
  • W-sitting isn’t detrimental to a child’s strength or balance.
  • Sitting in the W position from time to time is fine. To encourage them to sit differently, give verbal cues, but keep it positive. You could say: “Move into a cross-legged position to build strong muscles.”

Physiotherapist Kathryn suggests alternative positions your child can try – listed below.

Montage of child sitting in different positions

Images: From the top left sitting on a seat, sitting with legs to one side, long sitting and sitting on a pillow.

Sitting on a seat

Many children enjoy sitting on a seat because it offers stability.

Sitting on a pillow

Children may fidget less if they are sitting on a cushion.

Cross Legged

Cross-legged is a common, comfortable sitting position with hips in flexion. Children should be encouraged to alternate the cross-legged position with a different leg on top.

Side Sitting

A great alternative as this removes any stress from the hip joint structures, allowing for easy transitions in and out of sitting.

Long Sitting

Long sitting is when a child has their legs outstretched. This position can stretch their hamstring muscles.

Sitting on Knees

If these positions are too uncomfortable, you can start by allowing them to sit on their knees with their feet tucked underneath their bottom.

You should seek a review for your child if, in addition to W-sitting you notice your child has:

  • pain or tiredness
  • frequent trips or falls
  • gross motor delay
  • in-toeing (when the feet turn inwards when walking), especially on one side
  • low muscle tone (i.e. if they were delayed in their gross motor skills in infancy)
  • high muscle tone
  • W-sitting is the only position they use and they cannot get in and out of this position easily

Physiotherapists have a wide range of skills to support children with disabilities.┬áKites’ physiotherapists can help with┬ámobility, developmental delays, genetic conditions and more.

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