Why is w-sitting a concern for preschoolers?

Why is w-sitting a concern for preschoolers?

Written by Robyn Papworth from Play Move Improve – www.playmoveimprove.com.au

 

The position of w-sitting, refers to children sitting on the floor with both of their feet positioned behind their bottom.

As an Exercise Physiologist, this w-sitting position makes me nervous, because it is a red flag for children’s gross motor skill development.

What I mean by red-flag, is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that a child who w-sits, has a developmental delay. But what it can highlight, is that the child is finding it difficult sitting in a cross-legged or tummy time position for the following, possible reasons:

  • Does the child have poor core strength? 
    • Does the child need to have more support from their legs to hold their upper body up against gravity?
    • We need more core strength to sit cross-legged than w-sitting, because there is less of our body resting on the ground in a cross-legged position.

  • Is the child finding it difficult to cross the midline?
    • Children who struggle with crossing the midline skills, may also find it difficult crossing their legs to sit down, because this cross-legged position relies on their brain to be able to cross their left foot over their right foot, or their right foot over their left foot.
    • In a w-sitting position, their left foot stays on the left hand side of their body, and their right foot stays on their right hand side of the body. As a result, this w-sitting position doesn’t challenge their crossing the midline skills.

 

  • Does the child have tight hamstring muscles?
    • Children who have spent hours sitting in this w-sitting position, can have tight hamstring muscles as a result of tucking their feet underneath their knees.
    • When children have tight hamstrings, they may also find it difficult to run, jump, climb, sit for long periods of time, and lay in a tummy time position with their legs resting flat on the floor.

Why do we need to worry about w-sitting?

In my own experiences, I have seen the poor gross motor skills of children who w-sit. I have also seen the discomfort on their face, when we try to sit on the ground with our legs stretched out in front of our body. If children are struggling with tight leg muscles already, I worry for what their muscles will be like as they get older.

My other concern about w-sitting, is that it encourages children to spend more time sitting still on the floor, further limiting their core strength. Children need core strength to be able to:

  • Run, 
  • Jump, 
  • Climb, 
  • Dance
  • Balance on one foot, 
  • Reach for objects without losing balance, 
  • Avoid falling over when they trip on an obstacle
  • Sit on the ground during circle time
  • Sit up tall at a table during handwriting

How do we help children who w-sit?

For children who w-sit, the more we can avoid sitting while playing, the better. Until the habit of w-sitting is reduced.

For example, encourage children to:

  • Play trains while standing up, by having all of the train accessories on a table
  • Paint with blocks or natural materials at a standing easel
  • Play in the sand pit, while standing at a mud kitchen bench
  • Complete an outdoor obstacle course once a day
    • Obstacle course to include:
      • Crawing through tunnels
      • Climbing up playground nets
      • Walking across low beams
      • Sliding down a slide
      • Jump across hula hoops
      • Climbing over an a-frame
      • Throwing a soft ball into a basketball net

I also encourage children who w-sit, to spend more time playing in the tummy time position, because the tummy time position helps to:

  • Lengthen out the hamstring muscles
  • Build up core strength
  • Stretch hip and abdominal muscles
  • Encourage shoulder and neck strength

 

Some children who have poor core strength may be reluctant to play in tummy time position at first, because they may quickly fatigue in this position. What I encourage you to do, is start by encouraging 2 minutes of tummy time, then 5 minutes of tummy time, etc.

Children will also be more likely to play in tummy time, if you’re also playing in tummy time with them. After a few days, you may find that the children enjoy playing independently in this new position.

I also encourage educators and teachers, to remove small chairs from some of the play tables. This will encourage children to stand or kneel at the table, instead of slouch while sitting in their chairs. 

To learn more about w-sitting, and ways to help – click here

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