If you know what “criss cross applesauce” sitting looks like, you have seen tailor sitting position. This position is when a child sits on their bottom with both legs bent in front with one leg crossed over the other.
Like all positions and postures for our bodies, sitting cross legged for a long period of time is not great. It can cause excessive stretching of inner thigh muscles, shorten muscles on the outer thighs, and put more strain on the inner aspects of the knees. However, in short bouts of time (like when a child is reading a book, watching a show, playing with peers/siblings) this is a great position for them to be in.
Tailor sitting can help with a gentle stretch along tight inner thigh muscles, improve positioning of the hips, and challenge their core muscles while sitting up tall in criss cross applesauce. This position is a great alternative to W-sitting.
The following are some great activities to help your child gain the strength and stability to stay upright while sitting criss cross applesauce:
To be able to sit with an upright trunk, your child needs to have a strong core. Working on performing sit ups/crunches, Supine Flexion (curling up like a ball, holding onto their knees with both hands, and maintaining a chin tuck), and planks (both regular and side planks are GREAT for core strengthening!) are ways to start to work with your kiddo to improve their core strength. Each child will benefit from different exercises depending on their skill level, so check in with your PT to see which activities are appropriate to increase core strength, and check out this blog: 5 Core Strengthening Exercises by a NAPA PT
To be able to attain criss cross applesauce sitting, your child needs to have hamstring flexibility. If their hamstrings are too tight, it will cause them to tilt their pelvis and possibly lose their balance backwards in this position. There are SO MANY variations of hamstring stretches to complete at home. One of the most common passive stretches is a supine hamstring stretch.
Have your child lie on their back with both legs flat on the floor. Choose which leg you are going to stretch first, then slowly lift that leg off the floor, keeping their knee straight, until they feel a stretch at the back of their thigh. Hold in the position that they start to feel a stretch for 30 seconds. You can complete this 3-5 times on each leg to get a sufficient hamstring stretch.
Some kiddos require repetition of positions to really learn how to master them. If this is the case, help them practice getting into tailor sitting by assisting with crossing their legs, and giving them support at their trunk as needed. The longer they are able to tolerate the position with support, begin to lessen the amount of support you may be giving them at the trunk and move down to assisting at the pelvis or legs.
One key to this is that the child has good support surrounding them. You want to make sure that there is a good amount of padding around your little and that they are not near any surfaces they may contact and get injured. If they fall out of the position, support them in the amount they were able to maintain it and assist them into the position again to continue with more practice!
Meghan O’Toole is a pediatric physical therapist at NAPA Center. She enjoys dancing and playing with her dogs and cats when not at NAPA. Meghan also enjoys going on adventures with her fiancé and family to explore new places and cultures!