How To Sit In School

  • Does your child have difficulty sitting upright in a “crisscross applesauce” position
  • Does your child fidget constantly or have trouble sitting still?
  • Does the teacher complain that your child bumps into peers during circle time at school?

What is low tone?

A child with low tone may appear floppy with loose joints and display poor posture, attention, or alertness.  The child may be late learning to sit and walk, avoid typical childhood outdoor play such as monkey bars, appear cautious engaging in new physical activities, tire easily, or have difficulty with sustained posture in sitting, drawing, and handwriting.

When seated, a low tone child may show the following:

  • Uses his/her hands on the floor or chair for support
  • Wraps his/her feet around the chair leg to provide stability
  • Uses a hand to hold up his/her head
  • Head often lying on the table
  • Sitting in a slumped “couch position” instead of upright in a chair
  • “W” sitting as opposed to cross-legged sitting

Why do children wiggle?
It is natural for young children to wiggle as they sit. Little bodies are meant for moving. Sometimes movement is functional, providing sensory input that helps a child to better engage and pay attention.  Other times, movement is disruptive to classmates and those around the child.  Before adults force a child to sit still, it is essential to understand the reasons behind the restlessness so that your child receives the appropriate assistance to ameliorate the problem.

What does a wiggly child do when seated?

  • Twist and turn on the floor, disrupting other children
  • Show difficulty maintaining visual and auditory attention
  • Sit on knees, one leg, or stand

What is static postural control? Why is it important?
sitting-positionStatic postural control involves sitting without moving in a good “work position” without leaning on the table or slouching back in the chair.  This allows a child to sit properly for tabletop activities and floor play with hands free to reach for and manipulate toys, creates trunk stability needed for smaller motor skills, and maximizes attention and engagement.

What is the 90, 90, 90 Rule?
This rule refers to optimal seated positioning.  It means that the hips, knees, and ankles should all be at 90-degree angles.  When the feet and pelvis are supported well, then the upper body and arms can work with ease and efficiency.   Legibility of writing improves with proper trunk, forearm, and wrist support to allow the hands to move freely.

What seating options exist to help a low tone or wiggly child?TrippTrapp_Girl

  • Make sure chair height is properly adjusted when sitting at a desk
  • Booster seat placed on the chair (with or without a foot rest)
  • Trip-Trapp chair (or similar design) with depth and height adjustable seat and footplate
  • Dycem non-slip pad
  • Sit wedge cushion (with or without bumps for sensory input)
  • Round inflatable cushion
  • Sit stool or bench stool
  • Floor sit position cross-legged with a raised surface to play on
  • Wall support (sitting against wall or bookcase during circle time)

What is the goal of a seating system?
The goal is to choose a seating system that provides the least amount of support needed to achieve static postural control, or sitting with minimal extraneous movement to allow for reading, writing, and learning!

For more information about optimal seating, recommendations to assist your child sit in the classroom, or to learn more about how occupational therapy can help your child, contact: