Tips to Improve Carpet Time Behavior

The Question:
I would like some help getting children to sit correctly on the carpet. They are a wild bunch and we have tried it all:  Getting the wiggles out, Whole brain, etc. They do fantastically all day, but seem to think carpet is play time.
The Answers:
Maria Sykes
 My kids have assigned spots on the carpet. We call them their “Special Learning Spots.”
Ashleigh Larkin-Pelafigue 
I also use assigned spots. I also teach from different arrangements on my carpet, like around the edge, spots, etc. the movement helps them to refocus. It also has helped me to develop a strong, predictable routine so that my students know the expectations, pace, and flow of the activities we do on the carpet.
Have you tried music? I think using music during my carpet time is what really made the difference in participation and focus a few years ago. I just play some every once in a while, they don’t anticipate it, but they know that it is their time to wiggle, dance, then settle down for learning…
Jamie Ridings
 Definitely agree with assigned spots and LOTS of modeling and practice…I also used stickers and small rewards for the ones that are sitting the right way…make a big deal out of the ones getting the hang of it and usually the others will try harder too!
Christen Suratt
 I do chairs. I have ten autistic boys. Chairs are the only way I can get them to sit.
Becky Streiker
 I use assigned spots, and we go over the steps to being a good listener with picture cue cards everyday. I also send kids back to their chairs after one warning. If they are sent back to their chairs they lose 5 minutes of recess. I always tell them if they play on the rug, they have used their recess time.
Brenda Pine Dulny 
My kids say,”criss cross applesauce-spoons in the bowl.” That means that their legs are crossed and their hands are in front and cupped in front of them. The back row are the basketball players, the middle row are the soccer players and the front row are the swimmers.
Wendy Groos Gilbert 
One of the best purchases ever was my carpet from Lakeshore Learning. It’s expensive, but it has color-coded rows with spots for 20 kids. It is very obvious where the boundaries are for each spot. For my kinders and firsties, they need that visual cue.
Danielle Kroger
Repeating much of what’s been said, assigned spots, WBT has worked well, and “you had recess on my carpet today so you can sit now” is one of my favorites–HaHa. Works wonders!
Kristen Scott
 Sometimes I make it a game to see who can sit and be quiet the longest. Silly as it sounds they really like this and it gives me a chance to see if there is anyone who really cannot do it, while giving them time to practice. It also gives me a few minutes to collect my thoughts.
Laura Pinto
 I agree with assigned spots, and my major behavior problems had to listen from their seat and were not allowed on my carpet. If they showed improvement I’d let them take a chair and sit behind everyone. The second they fooled around, back to their seat they go. Little ones are easily influenced so if you take care of the major problems that should help.
Rachelle Newton
 We say a chant as a reminder every time we sit on the carpet: Criss cross applesauce, pockets on the floor, hands in your lap and wiggle no more.
Vicki Oliver Krueger 
I sing songs, action songs to get them to sit on the rug, get their wiggles out. They have learned to sit and that the time to play is not on the rug
Kathy Timson
 I didn’t have a carpet with defined spots; so I was able to use colored masking tape to measure out the 30 spaces I needed. Worked so well to be able to do a body check from time to time making sure we were in our listening posture. I like to use the poem “crisscross applesauce“.
Kelly Wilner Callahan
 I cut various shapes in various colors out of construction paper. Then I write one of our K sight words on each one (conveniently we have 25 words in my county). I laminate them and tape them down on the carpet. When the kids sit on the carpet they each sit on a shape. It helps keep them spaced out enough that they don’t bother each other. In the beginning of the year I will call them to leave the carpet by the color or shape they are sitting on. As the year goes on I use the words on the shapes (if your word has an “e” you may go, if your word has 5 letters you may go, etc.). It also helps reinforce letters and sight words!
Erin Mahar
 I first started using a rug last year and at first my class thought it was a free for all, but all I had to do was tell them that when we were on the rug it was quiet time and we only talk if we raise our hands. The quiet rug works for me and I didn’t have to assign seats.
Carmen Hathcock
 I use this song: And once they have learned the song, I will say the first part and have them do it and say the next line. Example: Teacher: Criss Cross, Students: Applesauce. Teacher: Hands on Lap, Students: Ginger Snap.
I’ve always used the words of this song as a chant w/ the kiddos on the carpet.
Jenny Duda Woods 
Colored foam square mats work great! Also, talk about whole body listening!
Katie McDonald
I agree with everyone. I am starting out tomorrow on our first day with the whole brain teaching, teaching rule one – follow directions quickly, then the responses like class, yes, etc and the scoreboard. I also have to say that I am amazed that Kathy, who posted above,  has 30 students! I know she isn’t the only one, but that’s just crazy!
Tandy Lynn Braid
Reward with skittles…Catch them being good.
Melissa Hayes-Crail
We say criss-cross applesauce, give me a clap, hands in your lap!! Skittles have amazing power over 5 yr olds!! I give one to kids who follow our rug rules!!
Karen Burnat 
Remember not to leave the kids on the carpet (or anywhere) for too long. They do need lots of movement so starting with short periods of time helps them not squiggle so much. They will get better as time goes on.
Just a note: Skittles contain gelatin, which is made from beef and/or pork. If you have Muslim, Hindu, or vegetarian/vegan students, you cannot give them any candies with this item in them…..Others include gummy candies, Starburst, marshmallows, rice crispy treats, candy corn, etc….
Heather Ferriero Graven
I had an antsy group last year who HATED sitting on the floor. After modeling and creating some ground rules, I allowed them to bring their chairs to the carpet. They would line them up (for safety purposes) and sit in their chairs for the duration of storytime/the lesson, and they LOVED it! Plus, it gave them 2 minutes (1 before, 1 after) to do some gross motor lifting which also helped them concentrate more 🙂
Melea Fields Kercheval
Role model (or have someone do that while class watches). Show inappropriate vs. appropriate. Make it a fun little mini lesson.
Jodeen Maness 
Assigned spots are a must.  I’ve also used cheap place settings from the Dollar Tree & each kid has one to sit on so they understand how much space is theirs.
We do criss-cross. The kids say applesauce & we shake our apples out of the tree (they make fists above their head) & put them in our laps.
Also a trick that works for me is I say in a hurried voice “Let’s see who can get to their spots so quick & quiet by the time I count to ten I’m going to close my eyes go!!!!”  They love it.
We do WBT too.
At the end of the day they are squirrelly so sometimes I make the ones having a hard time sit at their table.  It is around the outside of my carpet, so they can still listen & see but have some personal space away from the crowd.
Adrienne Heier 
We made a game out of criss cross apple sauce.
 I would do random Simon Says such as “Criss Cross Apple Sauce Hands on your….head!” and we’d do a few. The last was “Criss Cross Apple Sauce hands on your knees – eyes on me, please.” It worked well with my class that was 16 boys / 9 girls. They often had exuberant energy! 🙂
Deb Haffner
 I have used most of these ideas as well. It takes LOTS of practice, but I am noticing MANY do not even know how to cross their legs, their muscles seem tight, so we do lots of stretching, etc. Another thing I discovered was when a child said “The carpet makes my bottom feel funny”?!?!? Many kids with sensory issues do not like the feel of carpet. I made squares from polar fleece for their PERSONAL SPACE SIT-UPONS…it works:)
Jan Coats Honea
 I have used clothespins with each child’s name on one. Place them in a can. Tell the class that the five or six best behaved students will be picked at the end of circle time. Clip those clothespins on the top of the can. Later in the day, use those names as helpers for activities such acting out a fingerplay. Great rewards without the use of candy:)
Sara Steward Cooper
 I didn’t read all these replies, but we talk about what it looks like to be ready to learn on the carpet. I then take pictures of them doing those things: sitting Criss-Cross, raising hand etc…
I print them and make our own chart that says “are you…sitting quietly? Listening ? Eyes on teacher? Etc…”
Because they’ve helped create the “rules” they have more ownership in them…you can also title it…”I can _____” and have them
sign it like a contract 😉
LaBreeska Crittenden Smith 
I use the “Five Finger Rule” where you hold up a finger for each of the rules as you say them. They are: 1) criss-cross applesauce; 2) hands in your lap; 3) eyes on me; 4) lips are zipped; 5) thinking caps and listening ears are turned on. Hope this helps. 🙂
Sarah Hudson
Nicole Corn 
I use Mr Potato Head to go over the rules. Put the eyes in and tell them eyes on the teacher or book. Put the mouth on and say no talking while the teacher is talking. Put the arms in- raise your hand to talk, no hitting/touching others. Put the legs in- we sit criss cross at the carpet, no kicking others. Put the hat on and that is our thinking cap! Something else I have tried that works well is to get the kind of lip gloss that rolls on. It is clear and comes in different scents. I call it a smelly. I look for kids who are showing the correct behavior at the carpet. They put their hand on top of their head, and I rub a little bit of the lip gloss on their hand. They just love to smell it on their hand. It is very simple, but it works well!
Debbie Bartelmo Sachar
 I put a plain, white, piece of paper on their laps and tell them if they can keep that paper on their laps the entire time we’re on the rug, they will earn a teddy for their bags……
Nicole Cracco
 It makes a big difference if the have squares to sit in whether they be taped out, carpet squares, or a rug. When I did not they were moving all over the place. I use M&Ms or Skittles as a little reward to get them to sit, along with pretzels. I tell them that everyone one who is sitting like a pretzel will get a pretzel!
Leah Bodeen Meiser
I have 2 that sit by me, the rest sit wherever. We chant, “Open them shut them, open them, shut them, give a little clap (opening and shutting hands), open them, shut them, open them, shut them fold them in your lap.”  We do it a few times getting quieter each time. They love it and really gets their attention.
Kristin Murray
 Cross cross applesauce, peanut butter jelly (hold one hand up and then the other), make a sandwich (put hands together) and save it for later (put hands in lap). I also use “give me a clap” by Dr. Jean. Or “basket, basket, basket” where the kids make a stirring motion with the hands and then put them into their laps.
Amber Hickson Diaz
 Until they get the hang of it, I always give out a few highly coveted treats (m&ms, 5 extra minutes of recess, chance to be my special helper and hold the microphone, etc.) to kiddos making good choices: “Wow, I love how X is sitting SO quietly with her eyes on me. She gets a ____!” Pretty soon the wild, wiggly ones get calm and still!
Suzanne Giaimo 
Try taping circles/spots to the carpet with numbers on them, give them each a number, and make it THEIR spot, forever and ever!
Sarah Lower Bates
 Adams Family song works great! “Badadadum snap, snap…we fold our legs so neatly, we fold our hands so sweetly, we listen so completely, it’s carpet time right now. Badadadum snap, snap…”
Amy Riede
 ‎*Please note: it’s not natural for K kids to sit very long! At the beginning of the year, they’re building stamina, so plan for music and movement breaks often!* I use the video version of criss-cross applesauce, which works great to get them started. BUT, it’s too long to repeat the whole song during a lesson! The most effective mid-lesson strategy, which complements, rather than interrupts the lesson, is my popsicle sticks. I might be asking for a child to come up and help me with something, or to answer a question, or to make a decision about a lesson prop (i.e.: what color should we start with?). The catch is that when I pull a stick, that child has to be sitting right, or their stick goes back in the can. I don’t ridicule the child, just say something like, “Oh, bummer, I have to put your stick back in.” They REALLY sit well after that first stick goes back in the can.
Laurie Leahy
 When my kids are wiggly, I check on myself: Am I boring them? How long have they been sitting? I do expect quiet and attention, so I know I have to do my part to keep it relevant, fun, and short!
Ryan Ward
 Invest in a rug with colored squares. A good one will last for years and is worth the behavior management. “green square students line up first..”
Erin Scarbeau Gross
 I took a photo of them all sitting criss crossed with hands in lap, eyes facing front. Then I taped it to the bottom of my easel. If I saw someone getting squirmy I would just point to the photo and it usually served as a non verbal reminder of how they should be sitting.

3 thoughts on “Tips to Improve Carpet Time Behavior

  1. As a prevention scientist, developmental and child psychologist and a former special education teacher of preschool and elementary students, the thoughtful suggestions and comments to this issue reflect an inherent paradox about self-regulation in the classroom with young children. Youngsters need to move to create brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF)—which allows humans to learn from experience. And, children need to learn to have voluntary control over attention for an intention in diverse peer contexts to succeed. Command, control and consequences often backfire by triggering trauma and aggression responses, even though adults may receive momentary reinforcement by students stopping or freezing. That is not self-regulation.

    With the PAX Good Behavior Game (see construct the right balance of joyous physical activity with coherent positive bursts of focused attention during any school activity, in which the children exhibit self-regulation rather than mere compliance. The effects are dramatic in terms of reducing both immediate behavior problems as well as reducing most childhood mental, emotional and behavioral disorder symptoms in 3 months or so, with lifetime preventive impact on major adolescent and young adult serious disorders based on our samples of children followed from first grade through their twenties and now 30th year of life ( The learned skill of voluntary control over self-regulation and attention in diverse peer contexts has powerful impact on academic success—regardless of the academic curriculum. With PAX GBG by making the children the heroes of their own brains, behavior and classrooms, one never has to give candy or tokens, use clip charts for each kid, etc. Paradoxically, these simple strategies have the biggest effect on the children with the greatest difficulties, nicely illustrated in a wonderful demonstration project in the Republic of Ireland (see Recently, our early career scientists at Johns Hopkins have been able to show the strategies actually cause positive brain-gene expression from one or two years of PAX that lasts a lifetime.

    When I became a teacher, psychologist and scientist, like most readers of this blog and post, I wasn’t interested in my students being robots. I was interested in helping them be productive, peaceful, healthy and happy citizens for life. Fortunately, more and more practical science is showing to achieve those goals.

  2. Miss Bindergarten — this is about getting children to sit correctly on the carpet. If you have ever taught wiggly or hyperactive little children, you know that they will do all sorts of movements on the carpet — lie down, stick their feet up in the air, put their head back, etc. With 20-30 kids together on the carpet, this can equal lots of distraction for the other children, as well as a lack of safety when kids get bonked in the head, kicked, fingers stomped on, etc.

    Some people may not agree with sugar as rewards, but some people might not agree with public acknowledgment/praise to get kids to behave either. Everyone has different opinions about this.

  3. I guess what I am not clear on is why wiggling is a problem? Unless and until it is disrupting the learning of others, fidgeting does not constitute problem behaviour. Wiggling and fidgeting are often the brain’s effort to remain alert. If kids are having trouble staying alert, it is often because they are bored. If they are bored, it is because whatever *I* am asking of them is not engaging/appropriate. The cure for boredom is engagement. It is MY job to ensure that whatever is going on at the carpet is engaging.

    The children who wiggle most on the carpet are the children who most need the big muscle work that happens at recess. We should not be taking recess away from these kiddos. I’m also having a lot of trouble with the use of Skittles as rewards for behaviour. Public acknowledgment works just as well, costs nothing, and doesn’t put unneeded sugar into little bodies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s