Of all of the things I love about having a toddler, watching her become a tiny, curious human is high on the list. It’s also pretty gross. For every, “Mama, what’s this?” I can bet she’s holding a cigarette butt left on a sidewalk, she's holding bird poop she picked off a lawn chair, or her diaper is hoisted above her head. As mothers, we have daily front row seats at the circus. So when another mom asked me, “Should I correct my toddler if they sit in a W shape?” I thought: Wait, this isn’t related to bodily fluids?
First thing's first: what, exactly, is W sitting? According to Childtherapy.org, W sitting is "a position of sitting on the floor — the child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and rotated on the floor behind them in the shape of a W." The site went on to explain that this position is, in fact, pretty normal for kids to instinctually sit in, citing that "many children W sit. It is perfectly normal for a child to move in and out of w-sitting throughout their day while playing on the floor." As natural as it may be for your child, however, this specific sitting position is not recommended.
In an email interview with Romper, Dr. Bonnie Pittaluga, a pediatrician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, said, “W sitting should be discouraged by parents and caretakers in toddlers and children as it puts undue strain on the hip joint." Dr. Pittaluga went on to say, "It does provide a more stable base for sitting and that also means the child is not engaging their core as they should.”
Marianne Ryan, a New York-based physical therapist, agreed, telling Romper via email that “W” sitting can interfere with the development of normal movement patterns, as well as the development of trunk (mid-body) stabilization and rotation which is necessary for the ability to reach across the body and "for the brain to understand that there are two separate sides of the body.”
Ryan went onto explains further, saying, “The W position offers a wide base of support and can also prevent a child from developing good balance."
Ryan suggests parents encourage alternative positions as soon as they see their children sitting in the W position, in order to prevent it from becoming a habit.
“When playing with your child on the floor try to encourage positions with his or her knees together,” Ryan says. “For instance, if your child is crawling or kneeling, try to hold his [or her] knees together to prevent the W position. If the child sits when you hold the knees together, then he [or she] will sit to one side. [From there] try to encourage sitting to both the right and left sides equally.”
Other alternative positions to W sitting include lying on the tummy, sitting crossed leg, or leaning against a wall or couch for extra support with the legs straight. Pittaluga says it’s also OK to kneel, “as long as the feet are underneath the buttocks.”
That way, at least they will be sitting properly when they do all the gross things because OMG kids are gross you guys.