Kids are naturally flexible, bending and stretching their bodies in ways most adults would probably end up pulling a muscle or breaking a bone or two. As time goes by and children develop, they lose some of that flexibility, specially if they are not involved in sports like gymnastics, figure skating, or diving. For the most part, parents don’t need to worry. Unless your child is bending their arms backwards or doing the backwards spider walk, they are not hurting themselves. There is one sitting position, however, that looks innocent and natural enough that is cause for concern. Your daughter or son may be doing it already, if so, get them to stop right away.Most children are born with their thighbones inward, making it easier to rotate and sit in this position.
“You have more internal (hip) rotation as a child, and then W sitting is sometimes more comfortable,” says Dr. Eduardo Novais, orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Some toddlers are masters at sitting but it is more common to see preschoolers and kindergarteners sitting like this.
The concern is that by continuing to sit like this will result in the child walking with their knees facing forwards while the feet are turned outwards. This would mean that when the child walks, they are either pigeon toed or toeing gait.
If the child suffers from muscle tightness, this position will make the situation worse in the knees, ankles, legs, and hips.
Children who use this sitting position often experience difficulty in gross motors skills and balance.
Dr. Connie Challoner said, “This is harmful to our postural system and the way that we develop.
Gaining stability and strength in the core muscles is delayed among children, this will be apparent once they begin to participate in sports.
Physical therapist, Tema Stein, suggests avoiding the W position by giving babies a lot of tummy time.
Things like coordination, balance, and proper rotation are hindered as a result Stein warns.
“This position can also hinder righting reactions, the body’s response to maintain the correct orientation of the head and body with respect to vertical,” Pueppke writes in an article for PTC. “W-sitting can also cause children to have a difficult time sitting in a chair at a desk without using their hands for support. This prevents the child from being able to use both hands to play with a toy or perform age-appropriate hand writing tasks.”
Definitely encourage the “criss-cross applesauce” position. The child sits on their bum withe the legs crossed over one another. This will prevent tight leg muscles and strengthen the core.
“If a child is unable to sit in this position independently, let them rest their back against the couch or a chair. Side-sitting and long sitting (with feet forward and back supported) is another great alternative if sitting with knees out is too difficult,” Pueppke suggests.
“You can also try placing a band or belt around the child’s ankles when they are playing on the floor in order to make it impossible for them to assume the W-sit position,” Pueppke says.
While trying to break this habit talk to teachers, daycare, grandparents, and babysitters to keep an eye out. Giving the child a reminder or help them change position. Consistency is key.
Initially, they will feel secure and balanced. They should, however, naturally progress to sitting criss-crossed or legs straight out.
“I can easily say that most of the patients who come into my office with low back pain almost always have something going on in the hips, and almost 100% of them have tight and short hamstrings. This is not the precedent we want to start forming with our little kidlets,” Dr. Stephanie Galanis says.
“The hips and pelvis are sort of ‘locked’ into place, and the abs and pelvic muscles can just relax, as they have no need to work,” she explains.
“As most moms already know, cross-body movement is the essential key in crawling, and later walking (try walking without swinging your arms to see how awkward that is!),” she writes.
“When in the W position, you will notice that the right arm of the child will stay on the right side of the body and will not reach across to the left, and vice versa,” Galanis explains. “Bilateral movements are critical for brain development, and are needed for reaching more advanced developmental milestones later on (such as reading and writing).”
Yogis ease into this move to relax and stretch the thighs, ankles, and knees. These moves are not for long periods of time and you are including other poses to move your muscles.