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Stop “W” Sitting!!!

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“W” sitting is a terrible position for your toddler and even extends through adolescence. This position is when he sits on the floor on his bottom with his legs out to the sides in the letter “W”.

This position places undue stress on not only his leg muscles but also excessive stress on hips and knees in internal/medial rotation. This sustained position can cause shortening of leg muscles and loosening of joints. It can lead to abnormalities in bony alignment and gait. Significant issues can arise in balance, coordination, strength, and big gross motor skills. These are skills that require use of our big muscles.

“W” sitting is a preferred position for your toddler because his hips and knees both allow for this increased joint movement and it is an extremely comfortable position. The key reason why he enjoys this position is because it provides a wide base of support; therefore, he does not have to use his trunk muscles that much to maintain stability in an upright position. Not only does this position not allow for him to strengthen his trunk and posture muscles, but this lack of strength will also lead to a variety of limitations in balance, coordination, gait, motor planning, and even difficulty with attention skills when trying to sit upright in a classroom chair. Every time developmental opportunities are maximized, such as working on trunk strength in good positions, there is always great impact on academics down the road.

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Alternative Positions

1) Tailor sit “criss cross apple sauce” or my favorite name “Pretzel” –this position is truly the opposite of “W” sit. Pretzel allows for external/lateral rotation of hips and knees, which places these joints in better positioning for typical alignment and development. Tailor sit allows for a great deal of trunk and posture strengthening, due to increased trunk rotation and the ability to cross the centerline or “midline” of his body –imagine a line straight down from your nose to the space in between your feet. Many of our children today have great difficulty crossing this midline When he crosses midline, he is encouraging the development of bilateral coordination. This is a crucial skill that allows for the two sides of the body to work together. Bilateral coordination is not only important for coordination and motor planning, but also for the development of most academic, perceptual, and handwriting skills down the road.

2) Long sit – this position is when he sits on his bottom, with his legs straight out in front of him. This is a wonderful position because it is a great challenge for trunk and posture strengthening. It also allows for increased trunk rotation which will target the oblique abdominal muscles.

3) Tall Kneel – this position is when he has his knees on the ground with extended hips and trunk, maintaining an erect upper body. This position maximizes strengthening of the trunk against gravity, with also helps to maximize strengthening at the pelvis and hips joints. This is an ideal position when playing at the coffee table, practicing crossing midline by placing puzzle pieces all around him on the coffee table. If you want to add an additional challenge, place the puzzle pieces on the floor and have him lower up and down from a short kneel position- buttocks touching heels, and back up to a tall kneel position. This activity is great for thigh strengthening, too.

Please keep in mind, there is a small population of children that, due to either Orthopedic or Neurologic conditions, can only sustain a “W” position and have great difficulty achieving alternative positions. If your child falls into one of these categories, please discuss with your Pediatrician and clinical support team prior to attempting alternative positions.

Remember, your child wants to “W” sit, but it’s your job to discourage him and encourage a new position as much as possible. Good luck!

Amanda Math MPT, received her Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Rutgers/UMDNJ in 2001. She is the principal Physical Therapist at Jumping Jax. Amanda has extensive experience working with children of all ages. She has been evaluating and treating infants, toddlers and children with a wide variety of developmental, neurological, musculoskeletal, and congenital impairments. She incorporates her passion for physical therapy with her love of athletics and has completed extensive course work. Amanda has presented multiple workshops for parents, Special Education Preschools and Elementary Schools throughout her career on a variety of developmental, neurological and musculoskeletal topics.

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