This article covers the reasons why “W” sitting is not good for kids.

You see it all the time. Many Preschool and Kindergarten students sit with their feet splayed out behind their bottoms. When therapists and sports coaches see this sitting position in children, they react as though someone just scratched their fingers down a chalkboard. “Why?”
To begin, while the little legs of young children are quite flexible, the “W sitting” position stretches the tendons that wrap around the knees. Not a big deal for flexible young bodies, but if perpetuated, the tendons become lax and can cause trouble later in life, especially as they grow and begin engaging in rigorous sporting activities.

But here’s the big problem about “W Sitting” for the young child right now.  When “W Sitting,” the body is locked down and the chance to fall over is minimized.  This is a good thing right? Wrong! Children need to build endurance and strength in upright sitting positions. They should be able to do this without extra support. When they learn to sit properly, the trunk muscles are activated to help maintain balance and sit in an upright position. That doesn’t happen when “W” sitting. As a result, the core muscles don’t get the workout they need. That leads to less ability to balance, reach and move around effectively.  When kids are in school, the ability to sit up and pay attention in class is compromised.

I have worked with children of all ages. When they are comfortable and confident in a variety of sitting positions such as crossed legs position, side sitting or keeping their legs in front of them (long sitting) they become more flexible. Reaching for toys and moving into other positions for play are easier to do.  Their arms can stretch and reach without  fatigue when playing games on the floor or working.
When locked into a “W Sit,” the ability to reach is restricted.  Tolerance to play on floor and work is limited and the core muscles don’t get the workout they need.   All the great core work that happens in regular sitting positions won’t happen.  Lost opportunity!   

Why do some Kids gravitate to this position?  Here are the most common reasons:

  • Weak core strength
  • Fearful of falling
  • Fearful of movement.

How do you help your child to get comfortable in crossed and straight leg sitting positions?

  • Help strengthen core muscles with wheelbarrow walking, crab walking and other “heavy work activities.

  • Make sure your child enjoys movement. This is a great time to work on pretend crashing and falling games to be silly! Falling onto a pile of pillows is especially fun. Pretend wrestling is a nice activity as well for this age.
  • When playing on the floor, be sure to place toys slightly out of immediate reach so some active stretching has to occur to retrieve the toys.
  • Encourage rolling. This strengthens all the trunk muscles used for sitting.

By Jill Mays, author of Your Child’s Motor Development Story – Understanding and enhancing development from birth to their first sport.
Jill has worked with children for more than 30 years. A mother of three
children, she has juggled motherhood with her work in a private
occupational therapy practice and consulting where she helps parents and
educators understand the complex concepts of sensorimotor development.