Why Kids Sit in a W


We can glean important information from the way our kids sit on the floor.

We may not think how our kids sit on the floor (especially if we’re grateful that they’re even sitting at all) could tell us something about their neurological profile or that such positioning could possibly harm them.

Yet, sitting in a W formation—when kids sit on their bums with their knees bent and their feet out to either side of their hips—is a neurological red flag, and it’s a position that should be discouraged.

So why do kids even adopt this odd way of sitting?

First, it provides trunk and hip stability (i.e. creates a wide base) which, in turn, makes it easier to balance when reaching out for a toy.  What can that tell us?  Well, kids who need this extra support may not be receiving good vestibular and proprioceptive feedback since these senses are directly related to automatic balance.

However, there’s a price to pay for this compensation. Since there’s no trunk rotation when sitting this way, such kids avoid crossing their midline when reaching for a toy. Yet midline crossing is a developmental milestone for more advanced motor skills, reading, and writing.

It’s also likely that these kids have a retained symmetrical tonic neck reflex (STNR).  This primitive reflex is supposed to be integrated by the time the child is 9-to 11-months-old.

Yet if the STNR isn’t inhibited during the first year of life, it causes problems later on,  such as poor posture, a tendency to slump when sitting at a table, clumsiness, attention difficulties, challenges with swimming, problems doing a somersault—and a preference to sit in a W formation.

Okay, suddenly what seemed like an innocuous sitting position now sounds ominous. Not really. Information is always good if we use it to move forward.

In this case, such awareness may now prompt us to encourage kids to sit in different positions—legs to the side, straight out in front, or crossed. If such sitting positions are too hard for the child, we can then advocate play time at a kiddy table (it’s almost impossible to sit in a W in a chair).

But more importantly, we can use this information to explore more fully whether there are additional indicators of underdeveloped lower centers of the brain.  There’s nothing like getting to the “root” of the problem rather than merely addressing a symptom.

So in that sense, sitting in a W can be a blessing.

One Response to “Why Kids Sit in a W”

  1. Ah, the good old tailor position. I remember it well. Perhaps had I or my parent’s known the challenged balance and eventually fibromyalgia I would live with in my 20′s and 30′s may not have surfaced.

    Being clumsy and proprioceptively illiterate, in other words, I was constantly challenged in movement until the pains of being an adult was too much.

    Good news is that neural plasticity does in fact work and now I’m moving better than I was and better than most 15 year olds who are still being taught outdated approaches such as stretching the way many of us were taught.

    I know, some things take time to learn and understand – and what ground we’ve made.

    Changing the brain and applying it through a systematic approach yields wonders and allows us a fuller life and appreciation of it that otherwise is tested.

    Certainly the tests can reveal a hardiness yet what other life paths would we choose if we’re more neurologically intact to begin with.

    What I mean by that is… the better the wiring, the better or more open our opportunities for positive self-expression.

    Move well… otherwise there is a price for propropceptive illiteracy.

    Hanna Somatic Educator

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