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What to Know About W-Sitting in Children

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 27, 2021

‌W-sitting is a way that children often sit beginning in early childhood. If you’re standing and looking down at your child, their legs are stretched out to the side, with knees bent and hips turned in.

W-sitting is not a supportive position for your child. If they do it for long periods of time, it can cause problems with physical development.

Why Does a Child W-Sit?

Between the ages of 2 and 5 is an important developmental time. It’s during this stage that children become stronger and develop their sense of balance, such as learning to climb stairs. ‌

In the w-sitting position, a child makes a wide base with their legs and relies on that rather than using their core posture muscles. They may begin to use this base to make up for a lack of core strength. Your child may also sit in the w-position if they have problems with flexibility in their hip muscles.

Can W-Sitting Harm Your Child?

Some children w-sit for a very short time, moving into and out of the position while at play. But if the position becomes a habit, it can lead to posture and movement problems.‌‌

One study of 39 children between the ages of 3 and 6 looked at the standing posture of kids who w-sit and measured their pelvic tilt angle. The researchers found that children who w-sit for longer periods of time had a pelvic forward tilt and hip internal rotation when they stood up.‌‌

The scientists also found that children who w-sit daily had a higher risk of:

W-sitting may also lead to:

  • Poor sitting balance
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Pigeon-toed walking
  • Changes in the development of the hip
  • Hip weakness
  • Swayback posture
  • Weak trunk and core muscles
  • Poor trunk control
  • Tight hamstrings

How to Keep Your Child From W-Sitting

Encourage your child to sit in different ways to change and shift their body position: 

  • Try side sitting. Have your child sit on the floor with you and mirror your movements. Without putting your hands on the floor, sit on your left side. Then move onto your knees and shift your position again to your right side. 
  • ‌‌Sit on the floor with your child and encourage them to mirror your movements. Place your legs straight out. You can add an element of fun by having “bottom walking races” with your child, shifting your weight back and forth to create movement and momentum.
  • ‌‌Have your child sit with you with your backs against the wall and your legs stretched out in front of you. This position will help stretch their hamstrings.
  • ‌‌‌Play reaching games with your child by encouraging them to reach for objects at different heights and distances. This helps build your child’s trunk muscles and flexibility.

‌‌Children who w-sit for short periods probably won’t have long-term physical development issues. But if you’re worried about your child:

  • Use a journal to keep track of how long your child w-sits.
  • Note if your child is uncomfortable in other sitting positions.
  • Watch for signs of physical weaknesses.
  • Watch for any unusual physical restrictions in your child’s movements.

Talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s w-sitting. 

Show Sources

‌SOURCES:

British Columbia Health Link BC: “Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5.”

Occupational Therapy Helping Children: “Motor Development.”

Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children: “Why W-sitting might be a cause for concern.” 

Rigakuryoho Kagaku: “Effect of W-sitting on Standing Posture of Preschool Age Children.”

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