The Problem with W Sitting | Still Playing School

The Problem with W Sitting

By Devany LeDrew | Labels:

E is a perpetual W sitter as you can see in all of these posts.  I remembered Megan correcting Everest when he sat like this, but I wasn't sure if it was an issue that he needed to work on individually or if it was a position that every child should avoid.

When I asked, I learned that in Everest's case, he had low muscle tone in his trunk and core, so he was sitting this way for stability.  Megan needed to correct this position so that his muscles could strengthen, but she informed me that sitting this way damages any child's joints in their knees and hips.

So why was E sitting this way and what could we do about it?

I asked friends if anyone knew an occupational therapist that could answer a few questions about this (and also E's pencil grasp).  I was put in contact with a very helpful OT, Becky McVaugh, who thoroughly answered these questions.

Becky said, "Children who are developing typically usually do this for two reasons.  The first could be that they are seeking out sensory input.  If you attempt this position, you can feel the stretch that it creates which, for a child whose central nervous system does not register sensory input at the same level as peers, allows the child to be receiving input to their brain about where their body is in space, etc.  My hypothesis (based on the grasp) is that your daughter may be doing this for the second reason.  The second reason that children do this is that it creates a wider base of support which helps them support themselves better while sitting on the floor.  Many children start doing this when they are younger and it becomes an unconcious position for them."

"I see this position frequently in the 0-3 population that I work with and tell parents 100% of the time that it needs to be corrected as it can actually cause damage to the hip joints.  For a child that age, I would recommend pairing a verbal prompt such as "fix your legs" with a physical cue at first.  After some time, a few days at her age probably, you should just be able to remind her verbally."

Becky then described some alternate ways that E could sit:

 If you or your child has spent any time in the classroom lately, you'll recognize the phrase "criss cross applesauce."  What used to be called "Indian style" now has a politically correct and kid-friendly name!  Everest took it one step further at our home school preschool and added, "Spoons in the bowl," meaning hands should be in the lap, too! 

For side sitting, one leg is still folded the way it would be for w sitting, but the other leg is bent in the same direction.  Becky pointed out that this is the position that most chronic w sitting children naturally correct to since it still provides "a base of support, but because you are shifting the center of gravity, the hips are in better alignment."   Surprisingly, E rarely chooses to sit this way, but when she does, her left foot is usually tucked under.

Just like W sitting has the legs making a W, V sitting has the legs forming a V.   E doesn't seem to have to reach as far to play with toys this way.

Is your child a W sitter?  Did you even know this was something that should be corrected?  A BIG thank you to Becky for being so helpful with information for this post!


  1. How timely! I was just talking to my husband about this last night! Chase was a W sitter, and my Mom is an O.T., so I had a key phrase of "legs out" that we said. It was a hard habit to break, but as I was mentioning to my husband, one I haven't seen in a long time. I think being in preschool helped as well with various ways of sitting.

    1. I hope traditional preschool will reinforce new ways of sitting with E as well! Fascinating that your mom is an OT. I might have follow up questions!

  2. Given the opportunity, Bug would W sit all the time, and started doing it at a very early age. For her it was (and is) an issue of stability (and her low muscle tone makes her super bendy). PT had us correcting her from the age of about 15 months, which is when we started therapy, and I still say, "fix your feet!" whenever I see her doing it. We instruct all caregivers and school to do the same, and she immediately corrects herself when she hears that phrase.

    I don't think I would have known it was an issue without all of her therapy and early intervention appointments. We're working now on her squatting when picking things up or playing (instead of bending down with her tush up in the air), and using our left hand, or both hands together instead of just our right hand.

    1. I'd love you to blog about the progress she makes with what you're currently working on. Even when I started teaching, I didn't truly understand OT, but I've learned more through my kids and my friends' kids, Bug included!

  3. Deleted my previous comment! :(

    Bug has done the W sit from a very early age, and hers is definitely due to a desire for a wider support base (and her low muscle tone makes it incredibly easy for her to bend). PT had us correcting her at about 15 months, which is when we started seeing them weekly. We use the phrase "fix your feet!" and she corrects right away. We instruct all caregivers and school to do the same.

    I don't think we would have known it was an issue if it weren't for therapy and early intervention appointments. We are now also working in PT on proper squatting when playing or picking things up (instead of bending down with her tush up in the air) and using our left hand, or both hands together, instead of just our right.

  4. Our chiropractor who deals a lot with kids, regularly asks this od clients. When he asks us it is usually because he has picked up a misalignment in my son's pelvis and it has been caused by the w sitting

    1. That is so interesting to me! How often do you take Ayrton? We don't have a family chiropractor, but I'd like us all to see one.

  5. Very interesting read as I have a W-sitter. Thank you

  6. Please don't let your children side sit either. As a child I sat in a w, and eventually shifted to side sitting. Now as an adult it has definitely messed up one of my hips, I never noticed how my foot was turned in until it was pointed out. We refer to side sitting as deadleg at home. I have been trying to make an effort to not sit that way any more but it is an ingrained habit at this point. Since starting to do strength training and exercising more and trying to correct my posture problems it has just become increasingly more uncomfortable to sit in either cross legged or side. Crossed is almost impossible for me, and even sitting to the side hurts now. I would suggest that you keep your children's feet in front of them if they are sitting.

  7. I'm happy to see this issue being addressed because in my experience as an educational specialist, most parents don't realize this is a problem. However, I would urge parents to make sure, if your child sits this way - to ensure that she/he doesn't have a sensory integration disorder as the cause behind sitting this way.

    A few years back I directed a project to identify and treat kids with sensory integration disorder in 5 preschools in my area. This method of sitting is one of the key signs of a child with SID. (And obviously Mama Bear is already taking care of this, so this is for other parents who might not be aware)

    Here are a few more that fit with this particular behavior (body awareness):
    -grasp object too tightly or too loosely that they have difficulty using it
    - seem driven to seek out activities such as pushing, pulling, dragging, lifting, and jumping
    -seem unsure of how far to raise or lower the body during movement such as sitting down, or stepping over an object
    -jump a lot
    -tend to pet animals with too much force
    -chew on toys, clothes, or other objects more than other children
    -break things by playing with them "too hard."

    Hope these help!

  8. I have a daughter who always used to w sit, it turned out that it was making her intoeing (commonly known as pigeon toeing) worse, her lower leg has a 15 degree turn & a 10 degree turn in her feet, she is almost 5 (in May) & if her legs & feet don't straighten by the time she turns 8, they will have to break her legs & feet & reset them so they are straight which will mean a cast from each foot at least to the knee :(