Breathing Star

mindfulness-for-kids-christmas-coloring-page

This breathing star coloring page is perfect for Christmas Mindfulness and winter mindfulness activities…but today, we’ve got star breathing tool for you.

Discussing mindfulness for kids is a powerful strategy in addressing so many needs. Kids with sensory processing needs or self-regulation needs, or even emotional regulation needs may benefit from this holiday awareness activity.

Breathing Star

First, let’s talk about what a breathing star is.

A breathing star is a visual prompt that allows kids to follow a star design with their eyes or fingers to guide mindful and deep breathing. The breathing star can be a variety of shapes or forms, but the benefits are the same.

A breathing star might include:

  • A breathing star drawn on paper while doodling
  • A printable star coloring page like the one below
  • A star with arrows that a user can follow with deep breaths
  • This Star of David deep breathing tool

It’s a free printable Christmas coloring page with benefits! Scroll below to grab your printable page.

mindfulness-for-kids-christmas-coloring-page

This mindfulness tool goes along well with our wreath breathing exercise,  Pumpkin deep breathing exercise, and Thanksgiving mindfulness activity.

what does mindfulness for kids mean?

Why Use a Breathing Star?

First, let’s talk about what mindfulness means. Mindfulness in children is the ability to be aware of one’s actions and self in the moment. 

Mindfulness for kids is an important part of self regulation and the ability to regulate our senses, feelings, and body.

Consideration of well-being is important in addressing occupations across environments. OT practitioners can address mindfulness as a means for improving regulation, self-efficiency, stress, anxiety, trauma exposure, or other issues the child may face. Some mindfulness strategies for kids include breath awareness, body sweep, and labeling of feelings.

One such mindfulness tool for children includes deep breathing. Combining this with stress-reducing coloring or focused activity can be a means for helping kids to become aware of how their body is responding to outside input or stressors.

You’ve probably seen the variety of coloring books out there designed as coping tools for stress or anxiety. These can be a way to teach kids about focused awareness and mindfulness in the moment.

It allows us to focus on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting what’s happening on the inside: in our feelings, thoughts, or sensations. This can be a tough skill for kids to master and why a breathing star can support that need.

For kids, mindfulness is a skill that allows them to be aware of their body and how it’s responding in the moment. Mindfulness for kids is important for them to have the ability to pay attention and responding to input from the world around us.

Mindfulness in kids means noticing their body and the things happening around them. It has a lot to do with impulse control. Just like any other skill, mindfulness is an ability that develops over time.

It’s easy to see how this skill relates to so many other areas that occupational therapists address: self-regulation, self-confidence, attention, social-emotional skills, coping skills, sensory processing, impulsivity and inhibition, and overall well being.

Also be sure to check out these Mindfulness for Kids YouTube Videos.

How to Use a Breathing Star Visual Support

A tool like this self regulation star is easy to use:

  1. Start with a pointer finger pointing at any of the points on the star.
  2. Take a deep breath in as the finger traces along the arrow.
  3. When you reach one of the points of the star, pause and hold your breath.
  4. Then, trace along the arrow to the next point as you breathe out.
  5. When you reach the next point of the star, your lungs will be empty. Pause and hold your breath with empty lungs.
  6. Continue as you trace along the outer edge of the star, pausing to hold your breath at each point.

How Does a Breathing Star Work?

The best thing about the printable breathing star is that it is a visual cue that can be used in any situation or no matter the environment.

We cover how a printable tool like this sensory breath star can support a variety of needs in our resource on breathing exercises.

The benefit of the breathing star is the pause points at the end of each star’s point. This pause point allows for breath control. As the breath is held after filling the lungs or emptying the lungs, the lungs continue to expand as does the rib cage. This offers interoceptive awareness as heavy work fills the chest area.

We cover this sensory strategy in our resource on relaxation breathing.

Occupational therapy practitioners working with children are interested in the well-being and the whole child. Functioning and independence in daily occupations are impacted by the “whole child”. The breathing sensory star offers the tool to support these needs.

Christmas star mindfulness for kids activity and coping strategy for deep breathing and awareness.

Below is a free printable coloring page for holiday mindfulness. Pair this with our Christmas Mindfulness coloring page for a mindfulness exercise for kids.

Get a Christmas Star Mindfulness Coloring Page

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
    Powered By ConvertKit

    Christmas Mindfulness

    Use this Christmas mindfulness activity as a coping strategy for kids during the holidays.

    If Christmas mindfulness is something you would like to achieve this holiday season, we’ve got a seasonal strategy for you. This deep breathing Christmas tree exercise is sure to be a go-to Christmas season mindfulness activity that supports self-regulation needs for kids and families. Use this holiday sensory tool along with our breathing star.

    Christmas Mindfulness

    This time of year, most of us knee deep in holiday planning, prep work, and to-do lists! Having a few mindfulness for kids tools up your sleeve is a good idea this time of year. Today, I wanted to provide some tips on mindfulness during the holidays.

    For our kids with self-regulation needs or emotional regulation challenges that impact learning, emotions, anxiety, or worries, the holiday season can be a time of even more concern.

    Over the holidays, school and routines are off. There may be late nights at holiday parties, parents out for work events, unfamiliar family and friends visiting, new sights and sounds. All of this sensory input and environmental input can put a regulation system on overdrive.

    Then, in the school environment, there may be school parties, special events, and special themed days. The classroom Christmas party (or winter party) can be cause for sensory overload for some kids. Picture a classroom full of excited children at the end of a semester. The noises, sights, and environmental input can be just too much.

    In the community, there is holiday music, crowds, and a sense of excitement in the air. This can be a reason all its own for Christmas mindfulness tools.

    Then imagine the child with regulation needs at a family party with unfamiliar guests, a scratchy sweater, strange smells, and lots of noise. A Christmas mindfulness tool that the child can pull out and use to ease worries or stressors can be a great strategy for this time of year.

    Kids are barraged by schedule changes, anticipation of holiday events, later bedtimes, holiday travel, parent/teacher stress, increased sugar…and more. They feel these big feelings and can “lose it”, seemingly at the drop of a hat. Children can melt down in front of our eyes. This time of year perhaps especially, there is SO much going on inside those little bodies and minds. Focusing on mindfulness and coping strategies can help.

    I mean, think about it this way: We as adults are totally stressed out by deadlines, shopping lists, travel, extended family, holiday budgets, and the never-ending to-do lists.

    Our kids see that stress and anxiety.

    Think about our kiddos with sensory struggles. They are bombarded by lights and music, hustle and bustle in the grocery store, shopping mall, and even by the neighborhood lights. The later bedtimes and influx of sensory input is a challenge to process for them. It’s overwhelming and exhausting.

    Think about our students with praxis or motor issues. There are crowds to navigate, auditorium stages to maneuver and they need to do it FAST. There are schedules to maintain and growing to-do lists!

    And that’s just the beginning. All of our kids…no matter what their strengths or needs be…struggle with the change in routines, the adult stress, anticipation, holiday projects, gift giving issues, that extra sugar from holiday sweets, itchy holiday sweaters and scratchy tights, or mom’s stress from holiday traffic.

    That “iceberg” of underlying issues and concerns is a holiday version that leads to emotional breakdowns, poor coping skills, and sensory meltdowns.

    Now, think about the kiddo with executive functioning challenges. They can’t plan ahead or prioritize tasks when they have a holiday letter to write, a classroom sing-along to practice for, and Grandma’s house to visit next weekend. It’s hard for them to function when their routine is off kilter and anticipation is high.

    Christmas Mindfulness Activity

    Below, you will find a Christmas mindfulness activity and some coping strategies to address the holiday stress. This mindfulness tool goes along well with our Pumpkin deep breathing exercise, and Thanksgiving mindfulness activity.

    Christmas mindfulness activity for kids during the holiday season.

    When we think about the holidays from the perspective of a child. Having a set of mindfulness activities for kids is a great way to fill their toolbox with strategies they can use each day.

    Essentially, the post urges us to be mindful of the child’s thought process, emotions, and coping strategies this time of year.

    Holiday Mindfulness

    Below, you’ll find a printable Deep breathing Christmas tree printable that kids can use to support regulation needs.

    Print off the sheet and trace along the arrows as the user breathes deeply in and out. This calm and centering visual tracking paired with deep breathing can help the user to focus with mindful breathing.

    Mindful breathing is helpful in calming heart rate, easing anxious thoughts, and helping the user to focus on one thought rather than the many thoughts that may be running through their head.

    You can even pair the visual Christmas mindfulness breathing tool with visualizations.

    • Ask the user to visualize a calm space with a lit Christmas tree in a dimly lit room.
    • Ask the user to visualize a calm space rather than the hustle and bustle that may be happening around them.
    • Invite the user to imagine deeply breathing in the scent of a Christmas tree and breathing out the same scent as they empty their lungs.
    • Invite the user to picture the worry and anxiety slowly releasing from their body as they move down the slopes of the Christmas tree.
    • Pair the deep breathing with thoughts of things that remind you of peace and love (for example) for with each breath.
    • For each layer of the tree, kids can concentrate on one thing, person, or aspect of the holidays that they are grateful for. Thinking about whatever it is that you are grateful for is a simple way to pair the benefits of slow deep breaths with intentional thoughts.

    Then, show the user how to carry over this Christmas mindfulness strategy using a real Christmas tree.

    1. After using the printable Christmas tree deep breathing exercise, they can look at a real Christmas tree and trace the lines of the tree’s sides with their eyes as they breathe in and breathe out.
    2. Ask them to trace an imaginary Christmas tree, or triangle shape on the palm of their hand using the pointer finger of their other hand.

    This becomes a Christmas mindfulness tool that they can use any where and any time even without the printable exercise.

    Christmas mindfulness activity

    Christmas COping Tools

    This holiday season, I wanted to fill your toolbox with the tools your little one (or client/student) needs to thrive.

    These are the strategies and tips we can use to slow down, take a deep breath, and recognize the underlying issues going on behind behaviors, meltdowns, and frustrations.

    Because when you have the tools in place, you have a blueprint for success in the child.

    Here are some holiday tools that can help both YOU and a CHILD struggling with all that this time of year brings:

    Christmas Mindfulness

    This is a coloring page. Use it as a handout or home program. Kids can color it in and work on fine motor skills, too!

    Use the Christmas mindfulness handout with kids as a group or individually. You can set this up in several ways. Ask them fist to list out some things they are grateful for. Then, quietly say an item with each breath break.

    As a mindfulness group activity, use the Christmas tree graphic and explain that they will be pairing deep breathing with a focus on love or peace. Come up with a list of things the group loves about the holidays. As you work through he deep breathing exercise, the children in the group can focus on things that brings them peace personally.

    Or, you could invite the child to think in their head about some things that remind them of the holidays and then with each breath in, they intentionally concentrate on that thing/person/idea.

    More Christmas Mindfulness Strategies

    Here are more coping tools for kids that focus on addressing underlying needs so that kids can function. Use these strategies as part of a sensory diet or within the day.

    The thing about mindfulness is that the tools that support needs will differ for every individual. During the holiday season, there are ways to support mindful needs with the holidays in mind:

    Free printable Christmas Mindfulness Printable

    Want to grab our Christmas tree mindfulness deep breathing exercise? Enter your email address into the form below. This printable is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can log in and head over to our Mindfulness Toolbox where we have this and other Christmas mindfulness printable exercises.

    Get a Christmas Tree Mindfulness Coloring Page

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
      Powered By ConvertKit

      Wishing you a thriving, stress-free, and functional holiday season for you and those kiddos you serve!

      Thanksgiving Mindfulness Activity

      Turkey exercise for a mindful thanksgiving

      Having a mindful Thanksgiving is so important, but have you ever considered HOW to achieve Thanksgiving mindfulness during a time when abundance is everywhere? Today, we have a few tips on holiday mindfulness, but also a great turkey exercise. This Thanksgiving deep breathing exercise is a tool to use when the overwhelming feelings of a big holiday event can overcome emotions and behaviors. Add this turkey activity to your Thanksgiving occupational therapy plans.

      Thanksgiving Mindfulness

      This time of year, being mindful is a huge part of the gratitude of Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving Mindfulness activity doubles as a deep breathing coping strategy but also is helpful in teaching kids to be mindful during a time of year when the holidays can get the best of them.

      A few weeks ago, you may have seen a Pumpkin deep breathing exercise on The OT Toolbox. This mindfulness strategy is inline with that coping tool. Use it to talk to the kids about mindfulness or as a sensory strategy.

      Thanksgiving mindfulness activity with deep breathing exercise to use as a coping strategy with kids.

      During the time of year when signs of a feast is everywhere (from a family get together to a feast in the classroom), it can be easy to become overwhelmed by tensions, boundaries of others, and even the over-abundance.

      For our kiddos with sensory needs, we see this play out in emotions, behavioral meltdowns, and sensory regulation needs.  

      However, for ALL of us, sometimes having an open mind and mindful strategies can support a complex season. 

      Mindfulness for kids can be a creative way to address common concerns with attention, self-regulation, self-awareness, coping skills, and concentration.

      Mindfulness activities can be a way for kids to be more present in the moment, and more aware of themselves in every situation, including in the home, in the classroom, and while performing everyday activities.

      With the turkey exercise below, we use a few areas of mindful attention:

      • Deep breathing
      • Coloring (if using the coloring page)

      Deep breathing exercises can improve a child’s attention, emotional regulation through mindful attention to Breath Control

      Breathing exercises are a coping tool to support relaxation by attentive breathing. When focused breathing occurs with breath control to inhale a deep, diaphragmatic breathing strategy, and then held for a moment to hold the breath at full capacity, there are many calming benefits, which can slow a racing mind. This relaxation breathing is a breath control mechanism.

      Mindfulness Strategies for Big Holidays

      There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can still honor the spirit of Thanksgiving or other big holidays even when overwhelm and a racing mind are at play.

      Here are some of our favorite mindfulness tools for holidays:

      • Fun Mindfulness activities for kids–  creative mindfulness exercises that can help kids feel better, reduce stress, address anxiety, and have a greater awareness of their body and mind. Mindfulness activities for kids can be used as a self-regulation tool or a coping strategy. 
      • Go for a quick walk to add movement, heavy work through the body, and the opportunity to take a few deep breaths.
      • Make a list of things you are grateful for. Use that gratitude to pray, give thanks, or use in gratitude meditation.
      • Talk about gratitude with kids. This Bear Says Thanks activity is a great hands-on activity for this lesson.
      • Take a walk in nature and practice gratitude while walking
      • Talk about gratitude. You don’t need to save thankfulness for the Thanksgiving table. Talk about the things you are thankful for each day.
      • Consider mindful eating during big meals or family meals.
      • Winter Theme Mindfulness Activities–  Use these tips for mindfulness in the classroom and creative mindfulness exercises with a winter theme. 
      • Mindfulness Videos on YouTube– Use these YouTube videos to help kids pay attention and responding to input from the world around us, including emotionally and cognitively. 
      • Make gratitude and mindfulness a habit. 
      • Adding a quick morning meditation can help with overall wellbeing.
      • Hug your friends and family. Did you know there are benefits to giving and receiving hugs? Not only do they offer proprioceptive input through deep pressure, but they can be very calming.

      Turkey Exercise for Mindfulness

      This mindfulness activity is a fun one for kids this time of year. Like our pumpkin deep breathing exercise, we used a visual graphic of a turkey paired with directions to breathe deeply as a sensory coping strategy. Use the turkey deep breathing activity to teach kids mindfulness and awareness.

      Use the printable along with these free Thankful Turkey Templates for hands-on play.

      What better activity is there for Thanksgiving and the season of gratitude?

      • Kids can use this Thanksgiving mindfulness activity to wind down after a busy day, cope with sensory overload, and be more aware of things they can express gratitude for.
      • Use the printable turkey exercise as a breathing tool during the chaos of a family dinner.
      • Use this Thanksgiving themed mindfulness tool to address sensory issues such as sensory overload. It’s a great way to add a mini-sensory break into busy days filled with family and festivities. Simply taking a few moments to add deep breathing exercises can help with feelings of overwhelming sensory overload and add the calming moment a child might need.
      • It works for kids of all ages, too…take a few moments with your kiddos to step back, breathe deeply, and express gratitude or awareness.

      It’s a great way to introduce mindfulness to children with a visual representation of the deep breathing strategy and awareness of the world around them.

      Ok, so how does this work? Let’s try this mindfulness meditation task!

      How to Use this Turkey Exercise for Mindfulness

      Print off the turkey exercise by entering your email address into the form below. This resource is also available in our OT Toolbox Member’s Club, on the Thanksgiving Therapy Theme page.

      1. Use the visual graphic to follow the arrows as you take deep breaths in and out.
      2. Pair the deep breathing with thoughts of things that you are thankful for with each breath.
      3. For each feather on the turkey, you will concentrate on one thing, person, or aspect that you are thankful for. Maybe it’s a warm house. Maybe you are thankful for the sun shining outside. Maybe it’s a frantic house filled with family and friends. Maybe it’s a job that pays the bills.

      Thinking about whatever it is that you are grateful for is a simple way to pair the benefits of slow deep breaths with intentional thoughts.

      Use the Thanksgiving mindfulness with kids as a group or individually. You can set this up in several ways. Ask them fist to list out some things they are thankful for. Then, quietly say an item with each breath break.

      Use the Turkey Deep Breathing Exercise in a Group

      This exercise is a great addition to group gratitude activities.

      As a mindfulness group activity, use the turkey graphic and explain that they will be pairing deep breathing with a focus on gratitude. Come up with a list of things the group is thankful for and as you work through he deep breathing exercise, the children in the group can focus on things that they are thankful for personally.

      Or, you could invite the child to think in their head about some things they are thankful for and then with each breath in, they intentionally concentrate on that thing/person/idea.

      Adding the deep breathing exercise with intentional thoughts makes this a Thanksgiving Mindfulness activity that can be so helpful for kids (and adults) of all ages!

      Thanksgiving mindfulness activity for kids

      Free Thanksgiving Mindfulness Exercise

      You can print off a version of this turkey exercise deep breathing tool. Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club members can access this resource inside our Member’s Club on the Thanksgiving Therapy Theme page.

      Free Thanksgiving Mindfulness Turkey Exercise

        Are you interested in resources on (check all that apply):
        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

        Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise for Halloween Mindfulness

        Pumpkin deep breathing exercise

        This Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise is the very first visual breathing tool that we created here on the website. We now have many more deep breathing exercises designed to support self-regulation, mindfulness, and brain break needs. We’ve recently updated this Halloween mindfulness activity to include more information on WHY this pumpkin deep breathing strategy works. We’ve also updated the printable to include a pumpkin breathing poster and a pumpkin mindfulness coloring page! You can get both below or access them in our Member’s Club.

        Pumpkin Deep breathing exercise

        Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

        This Halloween activity is one that I came up with while thinking about our recent Halloween Occupational Therapy activities post. So often, we see kids who struggle with coping strategies and require tools to improve self regulation.

        This can occur at school or at home. What if we could combine a child’s interest in all things Halloween with a deep breathing exercise that can be used as a coping strategy, or a calm down activity?

        That’s where this pumpkin deep breathing exercise comes in.

        This deep breathing exercise uses a pumpkin for a coping strategy for kids that is a calm down strategy this Halloween.

        Halloween Mindfulness Activity

        We’ve created many breathing exercises to calm down kids (and adults) here on the website, and this pumpkin themed mindfulness strategy is just one of the tools in the toolbox.

        So often, parents and teachers ask for strategies to use as a coping mechanism. When kids have coping tools in their toolbox for addressing sensory needs, worries, and getting to that “just right” state of regulation, a self-reflective state can occur.

        Addressing specific needs like sensory overload, worries or anxiety, fears, or nervousness can be as simple as having a set of sensory coping strategies on hand. One way to do this is using mindfulness and positive coping skills like this deep breathing exercises.

        Using deep breathing exercises to support mindfulness and coping skills works for several reasons:

        • When kids are taught about how their body feels and reacts in certain situations, they can self-reflect on past responses.
        • They can better understand who they are and how their body reacts to stressful or sensory situations.
        • By better understanding their states of regulation, they can be mindful of things that may set them off, but better yet, know how to respond.
        • Having a coping strategy on hand can set them up for success in learning or social situations.

        Practicing mindfulness activities and coping strategies can be powerful for kids!

        Mindfulness is the ability and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as our body responds or reacts in thought, feeling, and sensations. Mindfulness is being present in the moment in any given situation with full awareness of inward and outward sensations. Practicing mindful awareness through deep breathing exercises is one way to notice how our body is reacting in a given moment and provides a tool to reset. Coping skills for kids may include deep breathing as just one strategy.

        Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube to help kids better understand what coping strategies and mindfulness in action looks and feels like.

        Deep breathing acts as a coping tactic and a calming activity. It’s an easy coping strategy for kids because taking deep breaths with mindful breathing can be done anywhere and without any equipment.

        Taking controlled breaths with deep breathing can give kids a sense of control that helps them rest and address self-regulation or emotional regulation when they are upset, worried, or feel a need to calm down.

        Halloween Breathing Exercise

        So now that we’ve covered deep breathing and why it’s a helpful coping strategy for kids, let’s talk about a fun Halloween themed coping strategy that kids will love to try.

        The deep breathing printable activity uses a simple picture of a pumpkin, but you can use a real pumpkin, too.

        Use a real pumpkin for more sensory benefits.

        The small decorative gourds or pie pumpkins are perfect for this activity, because kids can hold the small pumpkin in their hands and feel the weight of the pumpkin as they complete the breathing strategy.

        1. Hold a small pumpkin in the palm of your hand.
        2. Use your pointer finger of your other hand to slowly trace up a ridge and breathe in.
        3. Then trace down another ridge and breathe out.
        4. Continue tracing the ridges of the pumpkin while deeply breathing in and out.

        Take the breathing exercise a step further by trace the lines up toward the stem while taking a deep breath in. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then trace a line down another section of the pumpkin while slowly breathing out. Hold that breath for a few seconds. Repeat this process as you slowly trace up and down the sections of the pumpkin.

        What’s happening with this pumpkin breathing exercise?

        Several sensory systems are at work here when using a real pumpkin in this Halloween mindfulness strategy:

        Heavy Work- The weight of the pumpkin on the arches of the palm of the hand= PROPRIOCEPTIVE sensory system.

        Calming Tactile Cues- Engaging the tactile sensory system to trace the ridges of a smooth surface. Think about how some individuals like rubbing specific textures like a silky blanket or the calming strips of a fidget tool. Running a finger along the groove of a smooth pumpkin surface engages that calming tactile input.

        Belly Breathing- Deep breaths combined with a visual focus offers proprioceptive input through the lungs and diaphragm. Engage belly breathing by taking in fully breaths to fully engage the lungs. Then hold the breath for a second or two before releasing the breath. When belly breathing is engaged, the lungs continue to expand for a moment and add further pressure throughout the ribcage and internal organs. This breath control evokes the interoceptive system.

        Bilateral Coordination- When holding the pumpkin and tracing with a finger on the other hand, both sides of the body are at work in a coordinated manner, otherwise known as bilateral coordination. Holding the pumpkin with one hand and tracing with the other hand engages bilateral use of both sides of the body.

        Whether you are using a pumpkin picture or real pumpkin, show kids how to use deep breathing as a coping tool by taking calming breaths while they trace the lines of the pumpkin.

        Pumpkin deep breathing poster and coloring page
        Pumpkin deep breathing poster and coloring page

        Halloween Deep Breathing Poster

        In this newest update to our calming breathing exercise, we created both a pumpkin deep breathing poster and a coloring page.

        1. The poster can be printed out and hung in a classroom, therapy clinic or home.

        2. Use the deep breathing exercise as a brain break during the month of October.

        3. It’s a great tool for using during Halloween parties as a therapist- approved activity that supports underlying needs, too.

        4. Many times, children can become overstimulated during classroom Halloween parties, and the days leading up to Halloween. Use the pumpkin deep breathing visual as a tool for the whole classroom to organize their sensory systems and focus on the learning that still needs to happen.

        5. This printable page is full color and makes a great addition to a calm down corner this time of year.

        6. You can even add the pumpkin breathing poster to our Fall Sensory Stations, and include this in a hallway or therapy clinic this time of year.

        7. One final way to use this pumpkin mindfulness exercise is during the actual trick or treating. Kids with sensory or self-regulation needs can become overstimulated during trick or treating on Halloween. There is a lot of sensory stimulation out there! From lights, to fog machines, children running in the streets, and lots of strangers in the neighborhood, trick-or-treating is an overloading environment for many kids and adults! Print off a copy of this pumpkin deep breathing tool and use it calm down, engage focused breathing strategies, and cope as needed!

        Pumpkin Breathing Coloring Page

        In the new download below, you’ll also find a page that is a pumpkin breathing coloring page. We know there are many benefits of coloring and one is the calming ability that coloring has.

        Adding heavy work by coloring in pages can be a great way to calm the sensory system through heavy work in the hands.

        Print off the coloring page and use it in several ways this time of year:

        • Color in at occupational therapy sessions
        • Use as a whole class activity
        • Kids can color in the breathing exercise page and use them as individual brain break tools
        • Hang the coloring page on a bulletin board for Halloween that explains sensory self-regulation strategies
        • Include in a Halloween party
        Use a pumpkin as a deep breathing exercise for a coping strategy for kids.

        Free Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

        Want to get this free Pumpkin breathing exercise in both a color Poster format AND a coloring page? You’ve got it! Just enter your email address into the form below to access both printable pages.

        This resource is also inside our Member’s Club. Members can log into their accounts and download the file directly without the need to enter an email address. The printable pages are located on our Pumpkin Therapy Theme page and our Mindfulness Toolbox.

        Not a member of the Member’s Club yet? JOIN US HERE.

        Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

          What other freebies and resources would you like to receive?
          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

          Grab the Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit for more coloring, cutting, and eye-hand coordination activities with a Pumpkin theme! It includes:

          • 7 digital products that can be used any time of year- has a “pumpkins” theme
          • 5 pumpkin scissor skills cutting strips
          • Pumpkin scissor skills shapes- use in sensory bins, math, sorting, pattern activities
          • 2 pumpkin visual perception mazes with writing activity
          • Pumpkin “I Spy” sheet – color in the outline shapes to build pencil control and fine motor strength
          • Pumpkin Lacing cards – print, color, and hole punch to build bilateral coordination skills
          • 2 Pumpkin theme handwriting pages – single and double rule bold lined paper for handwriting practice

          Work on underlying fine motor and visual motor integration skills so you can help students excel in handwriting, learning, and motor skill development.

          You can grab this Pumpkin Fine Motor kit for just $6!

          Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Forest Sensory Path

          forest sensory path

          If taking a break is a must, but getting outside is tricky, then this Forest Sensory Path hits the mark! We’ve created another fun printable to our collection of free sensory paths with all of the calming benefits of nature and being in the woods. This printable forest sensory walk is perfect for bringing the calming input of nature into the indoors. Be sure to read this resource on sensory nature walks to read up on those calming and organizing self-regulation benefits of woods and nature.

          Forest sensory path printables

          Forest Sensory Path

          It seems life is getting more chaotic since the pandemic.  This may stem from isolation, lack of exposure, too much electronic use, stressors, or a sudden thrust back into “real life”.  Compounding this is the fact that learners do not know how to combat these environmental stressors, or self regulate.  It seems learners need instruction on how to take a break. That’s where these Forest Themed Sensory Path stations come in, which provide a structured sensory break, to help reorganize thoughts and body.

          Sensory paths and sensory stations became popular with the addition of expensive stickers set up around the school. These are awesome as a self-regulation activity and to address mindfulness with kids!  If you don’t have the budget or space for these custom stickers, try one of the sensory walk stations offered by the OT Toolbox.

          This month the Forest Sensory Path will fit in perfectly with your fall leaves occupational therapy theme.  Add your email below to be sent this FREE download.

          How does the FOrest sensory path work?

          Sensory activities like this Forest Sensory Walk Station offer tasks to promote body and mind regulation.  The initial response to a learner out of sync is to tell them to calm down. 

          What does “calm down” mean to you?  Adults generally have already figured out appropriate strategies to reduce anxiety, inducing a feeling of calm. 

          Children have no idea what “calm” looks like, because they rarely act this way.  They also lack the ability to calm themselves, or know what to do to slow their body/brain down. Having a strategy, movement, or action to stop, self-analyze, breathe for a moment, and take a break from the environmental or internal input, is a literal break for the brain and body. This is where we get the term brain breaks!

          Sensory stations provide the framework for self regulation.

          Printable Sensory Path: Forest Theme

          This Forest Sensory path combines deep breathing and proprioceptive input with eight different activities.  Proprioceptive exercise is a “go to” input for organizing the sensory processing system and regulating the sensory systems.

          It is alerting for those who are experiencing low arousal, and calming for those who seek additional input to get regulated.

          Connected to proprioception and interoception, deep breathing exercises slow the central nervous system, often elevated during periods of fight or flight responses. 

          The ultimate goal of sensory regulation is self-regulation.  Learners need to understand what strategies work for them, and when they are needed.  Sensory strategies are unique to each learner. 

          Just as adults have different routines they use for concentration and focus, children develop varied strategies. 

          Imagine the additional responsibility teachers take on remembering and learning  the sensory needs of each of their students. 

          When a student can advocate for themselves, this not only helps the student, but their caregivers as well.

          How to use the Forest Sensory Paths?

          • Lowest level learners need to be taken through the walk step by step
          • Middle level learners can be supervised while participating
          • Higher level learners will be able to complete this activity when instructed, or advocate for a sensory break
          • Laminate the page for reusability. This saves on resources.  Caregivers or young learners can help decorate these pages before they are laminated. 
          • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
          • Print in black and white, in color, or on colored paper for different levels of difficulty
          • Project this page onto a smart board for students to learn these activities as a group
          • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder.
          • Learners can explore other ways they could use this activity 
          • Explore different options for setting up this sensory station.  It could be appropriate in a classroom, hallway, gymnasium, outside the school, or walking into the cafeteria, depending on the needs of your learners

          sensory paths for elementary schools

          Some of the big budget sensory paths are thousands of dollars and require permanent installation over laminate floors. In many cases, getting approval for the purchase of a sensory path in an elementary school is just out of the question.

          The good news is that our printable sensory paths are totally free, AND you can print off the pages and switch out the themes according to the season.

          The other benefit that most therapist users see is that the printable pages can be positioned and placed according to the environment. These sensory path pages can be placed in a page protector sleeve and hung in a hallway. Or they can be laminated and placed in a calm down corner. The options are pretty limitless.

          A few other common questions about using the Forest sensory path in elementary schools or in therapy clinics can include:

          • Do sensory paths work for all learners?  No.  Sensory strategies are not one size fits all unfortunately.  Much of the treatment relies on trial and error.  If the forest sensory stations walk does not calm your learner, it is possible the treatment came too late, after the learner was already shut down.  Some learners are not able to self regulate through all parts of the sensory stations, however it is a great and simple activity for those who do.
          • How long should my learner use a sensory path?  There is no defined time frame for any self regulation strategies.  Some learners calm quickly, needing a diversion from their current state in order to regulate.  Other learners may take several minutes to calm after an upset.  Watch for signs of regulation and calming before suggesting your learner stops.  After the Forest Sensory Station Walk, take note of how long your learner is able to stay regulated.
          • How often should I use a sensory path?  Some learners need a boost of sensory regulation every twenty minutes, while others can go several hours before they need a moment to reset.  Watch for signs of disorganization and jump in with strategies before meltdown occurs.
          • Will a sensory path work consistently every time? Probably not. This worked last week, but not this week.  What happened?  Sensory strategies are not an exact science. Have a large “bag of tricks” in your toolbox to be able to offer several different strategies. 
          • How long will the effects of a sensory path last?  Every learner is different.  A very dysregulated learner may need almost constant strategies for self regulation.  A learner who is more organized and has been practicing strategies for a while, might reap the benefits of this sensory stations for two hours.  A great sensory workout can have long lasting effects.
          • Are sensory paths and sensory stations an evidenced based practice?  Because of the nature of sensory dysregulation and the strategies offered, it is very difficult to get consistent data in this area.  Use your clinical judgment and observations to determine how effective this Forest Themed Sensory Stations Walk is.

          Other Resources from the OT Toolbox

          Free Printable Forest Sensory Path

          Want to add a forest themed sensory path to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below. This resource is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can log into their account and access this resource in the Forest Animals Therapy Theme area. Not a member of The OT Toolbox Member’s Club? Join us!

          Free Forest Printable Sensory Path

            We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
            Victoria Wood

            Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

            The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

            The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

            The Power of Yet

            The power of yet

            Do you focus on the “power of yet” when helping kids with developing a growth mindset? A subtle mindset shift can do great things when it comes to shifting perspectives. Here, we’re covering what the power of yet means and how to help kids use this strategy in every day tasks with a printable power of yet worksheet.

            The Power of Yet activities

            The power of yet

            When we make a decision to learn new things, we are fostering the power of yet.

            When we struggle at a task but persist and keep trying, we are putting the power of yet to work.

            When we look forward to doing something, we exercise hope and optimism.

            All of these examples describe the power of yet!

            The power of yet starts with a growth mindset. A growth mindset is “the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed” (Mindset Works, n.d.).

            Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter, stronger, and more talented through putting in time and effort.

            According to Susan Jerrell, founder of Time out for Teachers,

            The power of yet teaches students:

            • they can learn
            • learning takes time and effort
            • results come from hard work
            • giving up isn’t an option 

            the power of yet carol dweck

            This way of thinking became popular through the work of Carol Dweck in her book (Amazon affiliate link) Mindset.  She teaches about the “power of yet.”

            This mindset shifts the focus away from all the things one can not do, to what one can not do YET.  As therapists, the population we serve is acutely aware of all the things they can not do.  It is easy to get bogged down by shortcomings and endless goal setting. This can be discouraging, and lead to shutdown or failure.

            When developing this growth mindset and encouraging the power of yet, be mindful of the four traps to success

            • People don’t set clear goals (and don’t break down goals to achieve them)
            • They feel discouraged
            • They feel overwhelmed
            • They are not ready to change

            Ask yourself, is my learner ready to change?  Is this a goal I want for them, or they want for themselves?  This might also be a good question to ask of the parents.  Are THEY ready for change? 

            Is it worth all your time and effort to teach your learner to fold laundry, if the parents are just going to do it themselves?  Should you problem solve and set endless goals to get your learner out of their parent’s bed, if the parents are really not ready for this change?

            Young people may not care about change, or the work entailed in growing may not seem worth all of the effort.  In this case, you will need to get creative if this change is important to their growth. 

            Shoe tying is a great example.  This is an important skill, however try telling that to a six year old who just loves his Crocs!  In this case, some creative goal setting, and a great incentive at the end might help nudge them along. 

            Power of Yet Activities

            Goal setting IS important, however it is crucial to go about it the right way, or this too will end in failure. The OT Toolbox has some great posts about Goal Setting and Goal Ladders

            Check out this cute video from Sesame Street with Janelle Monae singing about this “power of yet”.  This is a great tool to share with young learners about embracing change, and being able to learn new things.   

            Courtney Ackerman of Psychology Today gives the following tips to teaching the power of yet:

            • Work on your own growth mindset first. It is difficult to teach the power of yet 
            • Go beyond the “mindset jargon” and inspirational quotes to really focus on what the power of yet means
            • Praise properly, focusing on their efforts rather than shortcomings or natural talent
            • Embrace the word “yet;” use the word “yet” with children to give them a sense they can make a change
            • Take advantage of mistakes children make; be ready to praise them for their efforts but also point out any issues in their approach and brainstorm better ways to handle the situation with them
            • Let kids fail; another vital part of growth in children is to let them fail instead of showing them how to do everything or saving them from making mistakes. This is part of growth mindset mistakes.

            Free Power of yet worksheet

            Today’s free printable worksheet teaches learners to embrace what already makes them awesome, along with recognizing the power of yet.  I am not able to ride a unicycle YET.  I can not speak fluent Spanish YET.  I am awesome at riding a two wheeled bike, and can speak moderate Spanish.  

            Harness the power of yet, set attainable goals, embrace skills along with shortcomings.  Use the power of yet printable to brainstorm goals, focus on awesomeness, and develop a plan for growth. From a treatment planning objective, this task goes beyond just introspection and planning for the future.

            Use this letter to future self printable as a tool to support goal development and planning for the future and development tool to achieve goals that have not yet been achieved.

            Think of the other skills that can be addressed during this activity:

            • Social/Executive Function – Following directions, turn taking, task completion, orienting to details, neatness, multi-tasking, attending to task, and impulse control
            • Handwriting- Letter formation – correctly forming the letters top to bottom.
            • Letter sizing – correctly fitting the letters into the provided space. Spacing, line placement, directionality, and spelling are also addressed
            • Fine motor skills- strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
            • Scissor skills- Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines
            • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while writing.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
            • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and writing tasks.
            • Social function – working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, talking about the activity

            How do I grade this Power of Yet activity?

            When I use the word “grade,” I mean make it easier or harder, not give it a letter grade or score it.

            • Lowest level learners can dictate what they would like written
            • Middle level learners can write one or two words about their awesomeness and goals
            • Higher level learners can write an idea about their goals, then create a goal ladder, checklist, or graphic organizer.  This turns into a multilevel activity to use during many sessions.  
            • Talk about the the power of yet, growth mindset, setting goals, and introspection/self reflection
            • Project this page onto a smart board to work as a group
            • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder.
            • Make lines within the larger boxes to provide borders and boundaries to write in. Many learners struggle to write legibly in a large box

            Growth mindset is interesting in that some people feel they are flawed and will forever need work, while others believe they are perfect just the way they are. Try and find that balance between the self defeated attitude and the “I am perfect” belief. We all have room to grow and new things to learn. 

            A therapist I worked with for many years did not say, “practice makes perfect” as things are never perfect.  Instead she would say, “practice makes better.”  

            This resource is also available inside the Member’s Club.

            Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

            This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

            Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

            Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

            Join the Member’s Club today!

            Free Power of Yet Activity

              We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

              NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

              Victoria Wood

              Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

              Zones of Regulation and Self Regulation Activities

              zones of regulation activities

              The Zones of Regulation® program is a self-regulation tool to help kids identify, address, and use strategies to achieve self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way. Using interactive Zones of Regulation activities in the actual program can be helpful for kids who struggle with self-regulation. Here, we’re covering information on this program as well as activities to support self regulation.

              Today, we are covering more information on this regulation tool as an option to add to your toolbox of strategies. In this blog post, we are not sharing activities as a replacement for the actual Zones of Regulation program, but rather, a resource to direct individuals toward the program’s website as a resource for self regulation needs.

              Here, you will find self-regulation activities (emotional regulation, internal regulation, and physical regulation strategies) and tips to work on self-regulation of emotions through fun and interactive activities.

              All of us can use what we learn from the self regulation activities found in the innovative program to monitor, maintain, and change our level of regulation.

              These are DIY self-regulation activities that you can make as part of your occupational therapy treatment and can be used over and over again!

              This blog post is an independent resource and is not affiliated with, nor has it been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Think Social Publishing, Inc. or by Leah Kuypers, author of The Zones of Regulation. 

              zones of regulation activities

              First, let’s cover what self regulation means.

              What is self regulation?

              Well, let’s break it down. 

              “Self” means you or me.  “Regulation” means the process of being in control or to have management. So, add these two terms together and you get “self-regulation”.

              Self-regulation means you or me being in control and having management of ourselves.

              Self-regulation is a skill that many children have a difficult time learning and achieving without help. In a given day, a child (and an adult) encounters multiple situations and circumstances that require an awareness of self and others as well as the ability to have or gain self-control.

              Self-regulation is the ability to attain, maintain, and change one’s arousal level, emotions, and behaviors. This ability to self-control relies on impulse control, working memory, and generally speaking, the ability to keep oneself “in check”. The ability to experience feelings and desires and make decisions based on those concepts requires motivation, willpower, higher level thinking.

              Generally speaking, a child should achieve an optimal level of self-awareness and mindfulness to identify their inner feelings and emotions and be ready to regulate themselves when the time comes. They need to learn strategies and techniques that work for them to assist them in leaving a less optimal level in order to get back to a “ready-to-go” level of regulation.

              Here are more mindfulness activities that kids can use in addition to their “Regulation Toolbox”.

              Emotional Regulation Therapy

              Generally speaking, there are many activities to support emotional regulation. These coping skills can come in many forms. In this resource, you will find specific activities to add to a self-regulation toolbox, so that monitoring and maintaining a functional level of regulation is possible in any situation.

              There are emotional regulation posters, worksheets, self-regulation checks, regulation games, and even cootie catchers.

              Other emotional regulation therapy strategies can include using the traffic light emotional regulation concept where the red light, yellow light, and green light of a traffic light are considered for emotions and behavioral responses.

              All of these regulation tools are strategies to help kids become more aware of their self in order to function. Let’s break it down further and look at how and why this program works, but also where to go next when it comes to regulation strategies.

              thoughts emotions behaviors = self regulation

              It requires the ability to self-monitor our thoughts, actions, feelings, internal body processes (interoception), and then make choices. These decisions can sometimes occur in a moment. For some, this instantaneous decision-making can lead to poor regulation.

              Self-regulation can refer to emotional regulation or behavioral regulation. Self-reflection of feelings, emotions, and our response to situations is the ability to use emotional regulation.

              Emotional regulation can look like a bad decision based on inner thoughts, or being in a grumpy mood and as a result being mean to a friend. Emotional regulation has to do with inner decisions related to emotions and moods.

              Behavioral regulation refers to decisions related to actions and what we say, do, or think in response to inner thoughts and desires.

              I think we can all say that one time or another we had something that we were expected to do but we really did NOT want to do.

              Examples of behavioral regulation include:

              • Maybe that was mow the lawn when we really wanted to watch a movie inside.
              • Maybe we wanted to sleep in when we actually had to get up for an early meeting.
              • Knowing that those tasks needed to be done and making the decision to do them rather than giving into impulses is a form of self-regulation.

              In another great resource, we covered the connection between executive functioning skills and emotional regulation.

              Self-Control and Self-Regulation

              A self-regulation program like the ones listed above are a helpful strategy for supporting self-control skills and self-regulation that impact behavioral responses. These strategies can be helpful for our children (and us adults!) to use during everyday tasks in our daily lives, whether that be schools, work, community, and homes. 

              These self regulation tactics help kiddos to identify, address and use strategies to achieve good self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way. Using the zones helps to take the focus off of the child as being “good” or “bad” and places the focus on obtaining control to get back to the “green zone.”

              A self-regulation blueprint can be created that includes helpful strategies and self regulation activities that can be used when needed to support children.

              These strategies actually teaches the child and their parents or teachers how to recognize the relationship between emotions, feelings, and their internal “state of being” with the behaviors and actions that we see.

              This self awareness relationship impacts attention, learning, and emotions.

              Self Awareness and Self Regulation

              When students understand the connection between their arousal states and their ability to self-regulate, they can identify different zones or levels which they are currently in at any given time.

              This is the ability to have self awareness, body awareness, and make choices that impact self regulation.

              They can then use regulation tools or strategies to impact their arousal so they can appropriately and efficiently respond to the demands of a given task.

              These different levels of regulation help a child recognize, categorize, and communicate their feelings or emotions based on a specific knowledge of how one’s body and mind respond to situations. This is self awareness and self regulation in action!

              One of the most important steps to self-regulation is having the self-awareness that something is “off” and we need to do something physically emotionally, or cognitively and that a change must happen. This is where understanding the nervous system is important for the adult in the situation. Understanding what is happening behind the limbic system, the vestibular system, proprioceptive system, and overall sensory processing systems are key.

              This makes a self-regulation strategy an effective and fluid tool for a child to understand, learn, and achieve without feeling judged or different.

              Let’s quickly review the various aspects of self-regulation and different feelings or emotional experiences that occur along a spectrum so you can have a better understanding of the reason behind my fun tool creations.

              I designed the regulation tools shown below for individual children to help them better understand and navigate their emotions while identifying strategies that help them shift from a less desirable zone to a more calm and focused space, which is better for participating and learning at school, home, community, church, therapy, or any environmental location where the individual participates.

              Zones of regulation activities and self-regulation curricula

              Self-regulation CurriculA

              There are many different programs that offer self-regulation curriculum. These are regulation programs and interventions that can assist a child (and adult) to learn the skills necessary to achieve emotional regulation fit for every situation, circumstance, and environment.

              Amazon affiliate links are included below.

              Many programs, curriculum or interventions are created by occupational therapy professionals e.g., Zones of Regulation, The Alert Program, Test Drive, The Sensory Connection, and a new program called, The Regulation Rocket.

              This article on using the Mightier program for self-regulation shows how to use the application and game to help a child identify their feelings and utilize coping strategies that impact those various emotional regulation changes. The games adjust to challenge the child as they become more proficient in coping strategies.

              One of the common self-regulation programs is the Zones of Regulation.

              Zones of Regulation INFORMATION

              The Zones of Regulation® is a self-regulation program created by occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, who founded the framework program in 2011.

              The program supports children and families in better understanding how self-regulation works through concreate concepts, colors, and strategies.

              Zones of Regulation framework created by Leah Kuypers, but rather are sharing this resource as a way for families and therapists to get started with specific activities and a plan to support regulation needs.

              What are the zones of regulation

              Well, in brief summation, the Zones of Regulation program is a curriculum or framework created by an occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, which is designed to help a child navigate their sometimes confusing emotions. The curriculum helps a child to achieve self-regulation and emotional control by gaining skills in self-control and problem-solving based on targeted zones that are identified with colors.

              What do the Colors in the Zones of Regulation Program Mean?

              zones of regulation activities for red zone

              The Red Zone is an extremely heightened state of alertness with intense emotions and is typically viewed as the child being “out-of-control.”

              Red zone behaviors might include:

              • Anger
              • Rage
              • Out of control
              • Mad
              • “Hands on” physical reactions
              • Terror
              • Extreme feelings
              • Feel “ready to explode”
              • Devastation

              Regulation Activities to support anger, physical reactions, extreme feelings, and “out of control” feelings may include:

              zones of regulation activities for yellow zone

              The Yellow Zone is entering a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions typically viewed as heading toward the red zone, but the child still has some control.

              Examples of Yellow Zone behaviors include:

              • Nervousness
              • Wiggly
              • Silliness
              • Anxious
              • Worried
              • Frustration
              • Excitement

              Regulation Activities to support worried or anxious feelings, frustration, silliness, nerves, or the wiggles may include:

              • Stretching
              • Yoga
              • Enjoy nature
              • Drink a glass of water
              • Listen to music
              • Write in a journal
              • Activities listed under the other areas
              zones of regulation activities for green zone

              The Green Zone is the optimal level of alertness and is typically viewed as the child being “good to go” and ready for leaning and social interactions.

              Examples of the Green Zone behaviors include:

              • Positive responses
              • Calm
              • Ready to go
              • Happy
              • Focused
              • Content

              Regulation Activities to support calm or focused feelings, feelings of contentment, happiness, positivity, and being ready to learn or join friends may include:

              • Write in a journal
              • List out accomplishments
              • Help someone
              • Reach out to a friend
              • Activities listed under the other areas

              Note that when in the “green” zone according the the Zones of Regulation framework, that it’s not the end goal. This is a level of feelings that all may experience at one time or another, but it’s not necessarily considered “good” vs. “bad” when experiencing other feelings.

              Strategies listed above for these feelings can be ways to journal about how one is feeling, talk to another person, expressing gratitude, or reaching out to others.

              Zones of regulation activities for

              The Blue Zone is a low level of alertness typically viewed as the child running slow.

              Examples of Blue Zone responses include:

              • Sick
              • Bored
              • Tired
              • Sad

              Regulation Activities to support those who feel sad, tired, bored, or sick may include:

              • Talk to someone
              • Rest
              • Build a puzzle
              • Read a book
              • Color or draw
              • Think about positive mindset strategies
              • Activities listed under the other areas
              Everyone has different self regulation needs to support emotional regulation

              No two kids will benefit from the same self regulation strategies

              Just like there are no two children alike, and no two teens or adults alike, there is no exact blueprint to these self-regulation strategies.

              Each individual will likely use different sets of mechanisms to support regulation needs.

              What works for one individual may not work for another.

              It’s also important to remember that emotional, cognitive, or physical regulation signs of sensory dysregulation or functional regulation can be different and change over time. Likewise, the coping skills that support regulation develop over time.

              One of the key pieces to the a self regulation tool is the point that there is no one “right” level to be in. It’s OK to have emotions of all levels and behaviors that match…to a point (getting so angry that one breaks things or is destructive to property is not ok. Being so upset and frustrated that one is mean and hurtful to a friend is not ok).

              We all have fluctuations of moods and behaviors. The part that is important for us as advocates for children is to offer strategies to help kids understand and identify their feelings and emotions. It’s important for kids to understand how their reactions impact others, particularly when they are not able to manage their emotional or behavioral response.

              Remember the concept that there is no “right” level or regulation and there is no “wrong” level. We all have emotions that fluctuate and change and we all have physical responses, behavioral responses to these emotional levels. These responses are not right or wrong either!

              Rather, it is appropriate and OK to have strategies to move from non-functional levels to functional levels, and in ways that work for the individual. If you or I are constantly in a depressed, down, or upset mood, that can have an impact on wellbeing. It can make us spiral into a deeper depression or anxiety that impacts social participation, health, functional participation. This is where it’s appropriate to have an “out” or a way to support the regulation needs.

              meaningful self regulation activities for emotional regulation therapy

              Self-Regulation Activities

              What is the best part about the fun tools I created?  YOU can create them and use them with most any regulation program based on the programs framework.

              All of the specific self-regulation activities that are listed above can be interchanged, and used as able to help move from one zone to another. Each child will be different emotional levels that they need to move from or into so that functional participation can occur.

              In this self-regulation craft and activity, we used a lion and a lamb concept to bring the abstract meaning of regulation to a concrete place of learning and exploration, by helping kids to see that self regulation strategies can make a huge difference in paying attention and learning in the classroom or completing tasks that need to be done at home. 

              As support for those struggling with self-regulation challenges, modeling is the strongest tool that we have as adults/parents/therapists to teach kids/teens/others how to cope.

              Other self-regulation strategies can be anything that helps the individual feel centered, focused, and able to participate in everyday tasks. Some of these strategies can include:

              • Create something
              • Journal
              • Playing with emotions playdough mats
              • Ask for help
              • Talking to a friend
              • Blow bubbles
              • Color, paint, draw
              • Listen to music
              • Dance
              • Play a favorite game
              • Make & play with slime
              • Play with fidget tools
              • Learn about something new
              • List things you are thankful for
              • Watch a movie
              • Go for a walk
              • Jump on a trampoline
              • Play outside
              • Run
              • Journal
              • Stretch
              • Exercise
              • Use kind & compassionate self-talk
              • Deep breathing
              • Do a puzzle
              • Heavy work
              • Clean
              • Take a nap
              • Practice mindfulness
              • Say positive affirmations
              • Look at old pictures
              • Practice yoga
              • Drink a warm cup of tea
              • Cuddle or play with your pet
              • Drink water from a sports bottle
              • Bounce a ball
              • Tell a joke
              • Cook or bake
              • Take a shower or bath
              • Plant or water flowers
              • Read a book
              • Make a craft
              • Drink a smoothie
              • Suck on hard candies
              • Chew gum or fruit leather
              • Blow a whistle or hum
              • Crunch popcorn
              • Rock in a rocking chair
              • Sit in a bean bag chair
              • Lawn work
              • Household chores
              • Lift weights
              • Ride a bike
              • Dance
              • Shake your arms or legs
              • Twist your hair
              • Tap foot on the ground
              • Take a cool shower or a warm bath
              • Fiddle with paper clips
              • Play with fidget tools
              • Make a DIY Fidget tool
              • Look at a sensory bottle
              • Watch a fish tank
              • Dim the lights
              • Declutter your space
              • Watch a sunset

              The resources in the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook really go into detail on this concept, in using movement and sensory tools as regulation strategies and coping tools to help kids function, within their daily functional tasks. For example, it is possible to incorporate regulating activities within the classroom, home tasks like self-care or chores, and the community. Check out the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook for more information on this concept.

              Look at the fun tools I created and take the general structure and design to build essential tools to go with whatever program you may be utilizing in therapy, the classroom, or at home.

              Use zones of regulation activities to help kids identify and regulate emotions and behaviors.
              Kids can have big emotions that impact their ability to cope in school or at home! These Zones of Regulation strategies can make a big difference in emotional control and using coping skills at school and at home.

              Emotion regulation coping strategies

              In this zones activity, kids can make the tools they need to work on self-regulation. Have kiddos fold file folders to create a pocket on the bottom. Trim off the edges. Use hot glue to turn the large pocket into four sections.

              Color and label the sections based on zones. Have kiddos label craft sticks with either emotions or coping strategies and insert into the correct pockets.

              This Pocket Play for Emotions and Coping Strategies Folders can be used in the home or classroom.

              Use this zones of regulation activity to help kids with self-regulation and coping strategies for emotional regulation at home or at school.

              Self-regulation Check-In Tube

              Have kiddos paint or wrap colored tape around paper towel tubes according to the zone colors. If painting, wait to dry. Follow up with kiddos writing emotion words or even drawing emotion facial expressions onto the matching tube color. Place a hair band onto the tube to roll up and down as needed to perform check-ins with children throughout the day.

              Kids can use this zones of regulation activity to help with self-regulation and self-monitoring as they become more aware of emotions and strategies to cope with big emotions.

              Self regulation Check-In Frame

              Hot glue colored craft sticks according to zone colors (red, yellow, green and blue) to create a square frame and then have child write the regulation level or name of the emotions and feelings on one side and zone emotion words on the other side

              OR have child write zone emotion words on one side and coping strategies on the other side. Place a clothespin onto the frame to clip as needed to perform check-ins with children throughout the day. This tool can also be used to teach and review while learning the program zones as well.

              Self regulation Grab Bag Game

              Have kiddos create an emotion identification grab bag game. This can be done in differentiated ways:

              • Draw emotional expressions as faces on matching color dot stickers and place on bottle caps (for younger children).
              • Simply draw emotional facial expressions on bottle caps directly with a black marker (for older children).
              • Draw emotional facial expressions on plastic spoons with matching colored markers (for younger children).
              • Draw emotional facial expressions on plastic spoons with a black marker (for older children).

              Once these are created, toss only the caps or only the spoons into a grab bag or simply toss them all into one bag.

              When children grab a cap or spoon from the bag, they decide which colored mat they belong on to identify the correct emotion and zone.

              This zones of regulation activity is a great way for kids to better understand self-regulation and strategies for emotional regulation and self control skills in kids.

              self regulation Craft

              Use this Lion and lamb self- regulation craft to identify emotions and talk about “lamb” emotions and responses and “lion” emotions and responses.

              Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

              Identifying coping strategies that work for each individual can make all the difference in having a set of “go to” regulation strategies when the need presents itself. This massive list of coping strategies for kids are perfect for filling a coping skills toolbox.

              Write them out on slips of paper, add them to a flip book, make them into coping skills Popsicle sticks, or add them to a coping strategies bulletin board. Kids can go through the various calming and alerting activities and use them to self-regulate.

              Make a self Regulation Chart

              Use a file folder or slide a paper into a page protector to create a self awareness and self regulation chart using movement activities in the classroom. Kids can mark identify their emotional level, feelings and pick from a coping mechanism to help them get to a level of functioning in which they can learn and pay attention.

              This is a helpful strategy for self control and self regulation.

              Keep a Self-Reflection Journal

              Using a printed journal like our Self-Reflection Journal or the Impulse Control Journal can help kids identify more about themselves, become more self-aware, while reflecting on their day and week.

              They can write down their actions, emotions, and responses and then look back at what worked and what didn’t work. By using a written journal, children can describe good and poor choices that they’ve made and then write out tools that they can try next time.

              Journaling is a conversation tool to use when talking about what works and what doesn’t work for a child with a variety of needs.

              The Impulse Control Journal takes self-reflection a step further by working on the impulses that impact behavioral regulation or emotional regulation and the actions that we see. This tool is effective in helping kids and teens to identify emotions, reactions, responses, and learning strategies to change their regulation through self-awareness.

              Kids can choose strategies independently and see progress by working through the Impulse Control Journal pages.

              Identify emotions through Play

              The first step of self-regulation is the ability to identify emotions. Social emotional learning begins with naming emotions, matching emotion names to faces and body language. When kids identify emotions, they can begin to develop empathy for others but also become more self-aware of their own emotions, the things that impact those feelings, and how they respond. Some ways to identify emotions through play include:

              • Using play to identify emotions can be done in so many pretend play activities.
              • Use pictures or video modeling to help kids identify emotions and label the terms.
              • Act out emotions with toys and name the emotions that the toys are demonstrating.

              Explore self regulation skills

              When kids explore self regulation skills by experimenting with sensory input, kids can identify the terms that their body feels when they are exposed to that sensory input.

              If done during a calm time, when the child is at high alert and concentration, they are able to fully experience the input without distraction. Kids can then create a zones toolbox using the self-regulation skills that work for them.

              This resource, a sensory processing disorder chart better explains how the sensory processing system breaks down and relates to behaviors and actions we see in relation to sensory input.

              Try these self regulation skills exploration with kids:

              • Try a variety of sensory foods and ask the child to identify how their mouth feels with each food. Does the food taste salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy, or sour? How does their mouth feel after trying each food? Awake, sleepy, happy, calm, alert? Ask the child to put a name to each food. Mark these down on a chart and use this as a regulation tool.
              • Try different types of movement using Sensory Diet Cards. Kids can try the sensory activity and identify how their body feels. Mark it down and add those calming or alerting activities to their regulation toolbox.
              These Zones of regulation activities are perfect for self-regulation in the classroom, homeschooling, or remote learning setting.

              Self Regulation in the Classroom

              Self regulation in the classroom can impact learning, attention, focus, and student interaction.

              Now that you know some zones of regulation activities, you can use them in the classroom or learning environment. Whether that be in the traditional school setting, in homeschooling, or in remote learning settings, the a regulation curriculum or practical self regulation strategies are effective to foster learning.

              Go ahead and make these fun and easy self-regulation therapy tools to help your kiddos learn emotional regulation and self-control to help them succeed in their daily lives so they can feel good and remain cool. Kiddos will enjoy the interactive components and you’ll see learning and regulation evolve! They can be used at home or in the school environment.

              • In the learning environment, kids can identify how characters of a book or reading assignment feel.
              • Help students identify emotions in magazines or online.
              • Identify specific tasks that the characters could do to get to a zone that would help them in the situation they are in. This can be a great group activity for students.
              • Come up with group or small group coping tools that students can use as a brain break or movement break.
              • Have students make a DIY quiet fidget tool that they can keep in their pencil pouch or desk.
              • Explore these sensory strategies for school and come up with regulation activities that work for the learning situation.
              • Add movement to learning. These monthly movement activities can work for many themes. These heavy work activity cards can be used in the classroom or with various learning themes.

              There are so many options for self regulation activities for kids. What would you add to this list?

              This post was written in part, by The OT Toolbox contributor, Regina Allen. Read about Regina in her Contributor Author Spotlight.

              Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

              What you Need to Know about Interoception

              interoception sensory information

              Interoception is a sensory term you may not have heard of before…but you have certainly felt or been impacted by the processing of our interoceptive sense! Internal feelings of hunger, fatigue, thirst, body temperature, digestion, and other internal systems offer a certain “feeling”, right? This is your interoception sensory system at work! Here, we’re covering everything you need to know about this complex sense, and taking a detailed look at how interoception impacts function.

              Interoception sensory input impact regulation, modulation, and function.

              Interoception The 8th sense

              Did you know that the five senses we were taught in school is not actually a complete list of a human’s senses? In fact, there are 7 or 8 senses that humans experience, depending on who you ask.

              Understanding our many senses helps us comprehend how we and others experience the world around us. For the sense we are highlighting today, it is how we understand what is going on inside of us. Check out this post on the OT Toolbox regarding Multisensory Learning: Emotion Activities

              Definition of the interoception sense

              Interoception is the sense of oneself; it is the ability to understand the body’s physical signals that tell you when you are hungry or full, thirsty or quenched, hot or cold, scared or calm, etc.

              Interoception refers to the body’s ability to identify and process internal actions of the organs and systems inside the body. This lesser-known sensory system helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. You can then make essential decisions about eating when you are hungry, drinking when you are thirsty, going into the restroom when you need to toilet, and other physical actions.

              There are nerves throughout the body that send these signals to the brain to help regulate the body, and promote homeostasis. 

              Some of these signals require a conscious act, like drinking water when we are thirsty, while others are non-conscious, like sweating when we are hot.

              Interoception comes into play when we consciously realize, “Oh, I am sweating because I feel hot, I should take off my jacket to cool down.” 

              Information on interoception, this blog post covers the definition of interoception, and interoception sensory strategies.

              How Does Interoception Impact Function? 

              Interoception can be thought of as a mind-body connection. Having a strong interoceptive sense would mean that you have a strong sense of the physical self, and what you need to promote comfort at any given time.

              Being able to confidently act on your body’s needs, makes everything a bit easier. You are likely able to make it to the bathroom before an accident, eat food before you feel light-headed, and stop eating before you feel sick. 

              But what about individuals who are not able to accurately process the bodies internal signals? They may find it more challenging to be potty trained, have a healthy diet, or emotionally regulate. 

              The ability to understand and respond to our body’s needs is a huge factor in our independence. If we don’t quite know what our bodies need, it makes everyday activities much more challenging, and focus on school or work tasks may dwindle. 

              Interoception even has to do with how our body moves, the action of bones in the skeleton, bone growth (growing pains have a lot of “pain” that is felt internally for kiddos who are rapidly growing! Be sure to check out this related blog on bone names to help tach kids about this concept.

              Interoception and Emotion 

              Interoception has a strong connection to emotional processing because of the physical way that we experience emotions. Our muscles clench when we are angry, quiver when we are scared, and relax when we are calm.

              Likewise, the stomach may feel upset when we are nervous, and one might get a headache from frustration. People with good interoception can relate these physical feelings to emotions. 

              If a person sensory processing differences, the signals from the body may not be accurately represented or relayed to the brain. They may be muddied or confusing, leading to a misunderstanding of what the body is trying to tell the brain. Because of this, a tickle may feel like pain, or a person may not know why they are experiencing discomfort. 

              Without interoception, labelling emotions is then a bit more challenging, as well as understanding how to remedy undesired feelings.

              Children may act out in aggression, cry or scream uncontrollably, or show other signs of sensory dysregulation, potentially due to a lack of interoception

              If you know a child who has multiple characteristics of reduced interoception, like potty accidents, over/under eating, and emotional dysregulation, they may benefit from therapeutic intervention to improve their body awareness. 

              The interoception system plays a part in feelings and emotions, too.

              When we feel anxious or worried, we might feel a tenseness about us. Our heart rate might speed up, and we feel that anxiety coursing through our systems.

              But for the child with difficulty expressing these feelings, they can’t tell us what they are feeling on the inside. They don’t have the words to identify specific interoceptive feelings they are having.

              Others might not recognize a racing heart. They might not realize that physical implication of anxiety or worry because they can’t actually feel their racing heart (when it is very much racing).

              When one feels anxious about a situation or an idea, we can help them to focus on their heart beat. We can help them take deep breaths to calm down. This focus on how their body is responding can help their internal state match the environment.

              Other ways to help with interoceptive identification include habit and routines to help us feel organized. When we know what to expect, we feel a lot more organized. The body is able to modulate better.

              As we increase the challenge, we have to also increase our supports. We can use some external organizational strategies (deep breaths, awareness, mindfulness, heavy work, routines) to help compensate for the lack of internal ability to organize ourselves.

              When we are disorganized, this is where we can fall apart. We have to be mindful ahead of time, and be accommodating and accepting of immature nervous systems, whether this is with our children, our spouse, or ourselves.

              Tips for Improving Interoception 

              There are all sorts of activities you can do with children to help increase their interoception skills. Below you will find tips for improving interoception, including mindfulness, and children’s books on topics like emotions, potty training, and problem solving. 

              • Modelling how you understand your bodies signals may also help – be sure to emphasize how you are feeling, and what you will do about it! 
              • Mindfulness – the act of intentionally connecting to oneself and/or the world around them. This can help an individual get “out of their head” and feel more grounded in the present moment. By doing so, it may improve self-awareness and a positive mood. Mindfulness is not just great for improving interoception – see this article for more information
                • This video guides a progressive muscle relaxation. Intentionally contracting and releasing muscles brings more awareness to the physical body, and deepens the connection that we feel to it.   
                • Here we have another video that guides mindfulness, in the form of a “body scan”. It also adds a great piece of education for children on what it means to understand their bodies signals, and why it is important. 
                • The OT Toolbox has this great list of more active ways to explore mindfulness through gross motor play

              Books to Improve Interoception

              Below are Amazon affiliate links to resources and books on interoception and internal states.

              • We Listen to Our Bodies is a book that follows a young girl as she feels emotions through her day. The physical representations of emotions are highlighted in ways that are familiar to young children.
              • For a similar read pick up this book, that follows a boy and his day full of feelings at the zoo! 
              • Time to Pee by Mo Williams is a great book that helps kids understand how to respond when they have that ‘funny feeling’ in their tummies. 
              • I Feel… activity books have been praised by therapists for their ability to make learning mindfulness fun! The activity book linked here focuses on sickness in the body and what it feels like to be sick in different ways. 
              • The OT Toolbox has a great resource called the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook to tie sensory processing together
              • For more children’s books on mindfulness to elicit peace and calm, check out this resource:
              Sensory lifestyle handbook- How to create a sensory diet

              While interoception is new and lesser known, it is an important sense to have.

              Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
              background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
              providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
              a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.