By Bobbi Philson

We hear it in early childhood classrooms all over Pennsylvania: “Criss cross applesauce, spoons in your bowl,” “Criss cross applesauce, pepperoni pizza,” “Criss cross applesauce, give your hands a clap.”

Why are we so insistent that children sit cross legged during circle time? How do you sit when you’re trying to attend to a lecture? A sermon? Your favorite cooking show? As adults, we find it difficult to sit for any length of time in the cross-legged position. Instead, we might tuck our feet under us, or lie on our bellies, or collapse on our favorite comfy chair. We might even stand. When we must sit elbow-to-elbow in movie theaters or concert halls or churches, we sometimes feel uncomfortable and crowded. Whatever we ask children to do, there’s always an adult version of the activity that can help us understand why children are resistant and uncooperative.

Why not provide a variety of options for circle time? Teachers can provide spots on the carpet, but also chairs in the back of the circle time area. Maybe the cube chairs that are seen in so many classrooms? Possibly provide the stadium seats that adults use for bleacher sitting. How about weighted lap pads for children who can’t stay in one spot? They can be as simple as a sock weighted with rice. How about those children who can’t sit still? Maybe they can have a squishy ball or fidget toy. Maybe children who don’t want to come to circle time can do a quiet activity in another area of the room.

Must children sit criss cross applesauce? Physical therapists are weighing in, saying that cross legged sitting can be unhealthy and lead to bad posture later in life. Other suggested options include teaching children to sit on their heels, allowing them to lie on their bellies propped up with their elbows, or providing firm cushions. How about quiet standing?

The physical therapist whose links are listed at the end of this article provide some keys to success: keep circle time short, provide active participation, support children who may need discreet fidget toys, and don’t require children who have personal space issues to sit close to their classmates.

Other suggestions:

  • Teach children to stay in their personal space without touching others.
  • Teach children that they can’t block another student’s vision of the circle time activity.
  • Unobtrusively put out the new possible seating options (cushions, fidget toys, lap pads, etc.) during free play so they are not so new and exciting that they take children’s attention away from the circle time activity.
  • Respect children’s attention span and keep circle time to 10 minutes.
  • Plan your circle time to include a welcoming time, an activity focus, and a closing tradition.
  • Tell children daily what is going to happen at circle time, first, second, third, so they know what to expect.


Check the links below for more alternatives to cross-legged sitting:
Circle time: Making large group activities work
Criss-Cross Applesauce – Is it Obsolete?
I cannot sit crisscross-applesauce with my hands in my lap
Why Can’t My Child Behave During Circle Time?
Pediatric Therapy Corner: Managing Circle Time
Brilliant Circle Time Strategies When Kids Can’t Sit Still

Tags : circle timeCriss Cross ApplesauceLarge groupWhole group

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