Why do children do this?
They do it because they don’t have to worry about keeping their balance when playing with toys etcetera.
Why is it bad?
It stops them from rotating their upper parts of their bodies or shifting weight from one side to the other. These latter movements are important for children to maintain stability whilst doing other things like running or playing on a playground. So, if they start adopting the W-position too often, then they get used to this position and rely on it. And when they start to do that, they then don’t develop the more mature movement patterns for higher level skills like running and jumping.
Because of that, it can also stop the child from developing a hand preference (because not trunk rotation can take place when in the W-sitting position (i.e. a child is less inclined to turn and reach across for an object). Instead, they’ll tend to pick up left hand items with the left hand and right hand items with the right hand.
It’s also not good for their hip joints and can lead to hip dislocation problems.
And finally, it causes their upper leg muscles to tighten up rather than move freely.
All children do the W-position at sometime or another. The key is whether they start to do it a lot. The odd time is okay but if you notice them doing it more than just the odd occaision, discourage them from doing it.
However, even the odd time is not good if
- the child already has orthopaedic (bone) problems like hip dysplasia.
- the child has neurological or developmental problems which result in leg spasticity.
So how to I stop it?
The most effective and easiest way to prevent a problem with W-sitting is to prevent it from becoming a habit it the first place. Anticipate and catch it before the child even learns to W-sit. If a child discovers W-sitting anyway, help them to move to another sitting position. If you see your child W Sitting, rather than simply saying, “Don’t sit like that!” it is a good idea for you to suggest other ways for them to sit such as:
- Long sitting
- Side sitting
- Criss-Cross or Tailor sitting
- Sitting on a small bench
It’s very important to be as consistent as possible and use a comforting voice rather than one a punitive tone. If you still have trouble, get in touch with the Health Visitor or GP.