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 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
  • 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.

School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise- A Stress Relaxation Tool

School bus deep breathing exercise for stress relaxation on the bus

Whether you are needing a bus stop activity to keep the kids calm and collected near a busy street or a sensory diet activity for the rides to school on the bus, this   school bus deep breathing exercise fits the bill. The school bus setting is unpredictable for sensory kids and this breathing activity is an easy stress relaxation tool that kids can add to their toolbox of coping strategies.

Time for school buses, school supplies, backpacks, new teachers, new friends, and new stressors.  While school can be fun and educational, it can also be a time of stress and overwhelm.  Teaching self regulation is important for school success.  Students and teachers love these Deep Breathing Exercises

School bus deep breathing exercise self regulation tool for stress relaxation on the bus.
Use this printable school bus deep breathing page as a sensory strategy for the school bus!

Just in time for back to school, the OT Toolbox has a great new School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise page to share. AND, it includes a school bus coloring page, too!

Stress Relaxation

One benefit of this sensory school bus strategy is the use in stress relaxation strategies in response to fight, flight, freeze, and other autonomic responses.

What do we mean by stress relaxation?

First, let’s cover how this works. When faced with an unfamiliar, unwanted, or overwhelming challenge, the central nervous system employs its fight, flight, or freeze response.  This is an automatic brain stem response to input.  Because everyone’s central nervous system is different, people respond differently to input.  Some people startle easily, are afraid of bugs, don’t tolerate loud noise or crowds, and are very sensitive. 

Others take life in stride, nothing tends to bother them. 

While this School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise is targeted for those who need to slow their central nervous system, everyone can benefit from taking a break once in a while to reset. When a body is in its fight, flight, or freeze mode, the central nervous system takes over.

The following may be symptoms of this autonomic response:

  • The heart rate may increase
  • Increased breathing rate 
  • Elevated heart rate/blood pressure/temperature 
  • Sweating
  • Hiccups
  • Excessive emotional outbursts
  • Decreased cognitive skills as all energy goes into protecting the body
  • Digestive issues

Because of this autonomic or automatic response to stimuli, people can make a conscious effort to combat these symptoms.  One quick and easy way to slow down heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and emotional outbursts is by using deep breathing exercises to relax the stress response. 

Education on self regulation is an important step of sensory based treatment.  Teaching a person to understand their body, triggers, and response to input will help them choose an appropriate treatment method, and a perfect time to use it. 

The use of stress relaxation strategies is a work in progress, and takes a long time to achieve self regulation.  Adults as well as children need help and reminders along the way when they are feeling out of control.

We have other fun and motivating breathing exercises for kids in the school setting on the site, too. These include:

School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise

The OT Toolbox is full of Breathing Exercise Worksheets.  The newest one, The School Bus, comes at a great time of year. It’s the perfect tool to use in stress responses on the school bus. Add this sensory strategy in school environment to the bus environment which can be unpredictable, full of loud sounds, vibration and unpredictable movements, and an opportunity for sensory overload.

Use the school bus sensory strategy to support different needs:

  • A sensory diet for the school bus
  • Waiting for the bus activity
  • Stress response to a simulating school bus environment

Have learners place their finger on a white dot.  Instruct them to breathe in while sliding their finger across the arrow.  On the next arrow, they are instructed to breathe out.  Learners can go around the bus as many times as it takes for them to feel more in control of their body.  

We’ve also included a deep breathing coloring page, in this set, too. Use it to work on coloring skills and pull in other areas of development such as fine motor skills and visual motor skills. Kids can then use the deep breathing coloring page as a coping strategy tool they have created and have ownership over.

How does this work?

These Deep Breathing Exercises are more than just working on breathing. Think about the following sensory systems that are activated using this free printable:

  • Deep breathing slows the heart rate
  • Visualizing the bus creates a distraction, or changes the learner’s focus
  • Listening to the sound of deep breathing can help tune out other stimuli
  • Counting breaths or holding for a number of seconds also creates a shift in focus
  • Themed breathing opens a door to change the subject and talk about the picture
  • Slowing the body down during the exercise, helps with regulation
  • Following a rhythm is organizing to the central nervous system

How to use the School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise Worksheet

Strategies such as breathing exercises are not as easy as handing your learner a piece of paper.  There is a lot of teaching, education, practice, and trial/error that goes into any of these treatment methods.

  • Initiate the activity BEFORE total meltdown or shut down occurs.  Once shut down occurs, it may not be easy for your learner to tolerate, listen, or sit and focus on this task
  • Use these exercises as part of your prescribed sensory diet, proving them at regular predictable intervals during the day, such as before/after transitions
  • Learner does not have to sit in a chair to work on deep breathing. They may lay on the floor, do yoga poses, climb under a blanket, sit in a rocker, or a comfy beanbag
  • If this exercise does not work for your learner, either try again at a different time, or move onto another strategy.  The OT Toolbox is full of ideas for self regulation

Thematic lesson or treatment planning is motivating for students, and a way for educators to organize their daily teaching. Back to school is a popular theme using school buses, school tools, and apples to get to know your students.  It is a great segue into the fall theme.

Other Back to School Activities from the OT Toolbox:

Free printable stress relaxation for the school bus

Want to add this printable stress relaxation tool to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below.

This item is also available inside the Member’s Club. Members can log into their account and access the tool by heading to Mindfulness Tools. Grab this stress relaxation exercise as well as others including unicorn deep breathing, pencil deep breathing, rainbow breathing, and more.

FREE School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise

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    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.

    Lion and Lamb Self-Regulation Activity for Kids

    lion lamb self regulation activity

    This Lion and Lamb Self-Regulation Activity for kids is perfect for helping kids build their ability to control emotions and behaviors in a fun, spring themed way.  Use this tool to help kids adjust to difficult situations in the classroom or at home. Self-regulation is a big term. Let’s see if we can explain that term a little here and provide you with strategies to help with regulation.

    Lion and Lamb Self regulation Activity

    In like a lion and out like a lamb self regulation activity for kids

    Here, we’re covering a fun self-regulation activity using the imagery of in like a lion and out like a lamb…typically depicting the volatile March weather. BUT, we can take that metaphor and relate it to the story emotions using lion terms like fast, loud, tearing, roaring, etc. and the soft and quiet emotions we relate to a lamb: soft, quiet, calm, etc.

    When learners use those terms to identify their own feelings and emotions, we give them the words to describe how they feel. We also provide a visual imagery of how their body looks both from the inward and outward perspectives. This is a powerful concept for kids and one that can take the self-regulation process to the next level of automaticity.

    This lion and lamb activity is a self-regulation activity that kids will love for understanding emotional regulation, self-control, and strategies to help them manage their emotions and behaviors. with a cute lion and lamb craft.

    Occupational therapy and self-regulation

    In occupational therapy, self-regulation activities can play a big part in treatment interventions. Kids can really struggle with emotional control or mindfulness in a situation in a way that impacts their functioning. Understanding how sensory processing plays a part in regulation and behaviors is part of the occupational therapy self-regulation intervention plan.  

    Occupational therapists can help parents, teachers, and children understand what is going on behind big emotions or big behaviors. They can help them 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. 

    Self-regulation is a difficult skill for many children.  Kids of all ages and developmental levels have a need to build on their self-regulation skills. Building self-regulation skills allows kids to deal with their emotions in appropriate and functional ways.  

    When a child is able to control their emotions, they can adjust to situations while managing their feelings and behaviors.  Here is more in-depth information about self-regulation.

    This self-regulation activity helps children understand and put words into the ways their body and mind may be reacting to certain situations.

    Lion and Lamb Self-Regulation Activity 

    This post contains affiliate links.  

    Lion and lamb self-regulation activity for kids

    Using a lion and lamb metaphor is a concrete way for kids to learn about and understand self-regulation.  Many times, kids understand when their body or brain is not in control.  Situations can get away from a child, when they are unable to react or respond in an appropriate manner. 

    Kids can use the idea of a lion and lamb to understand different ways that they might be feeling.  This activity should be done in a separate time from breakdowns or tantrums.  When a child is calm and open to talking about previous situations, sit down with the child or group of children and talk about how it might feel to be a lion and a lamb.  


    Self-Regulation Activity For Kids

    For this activity, I used just a piece of paper and divided it into two columns. This could be done on a large notebook on an easel in front of the classroom and hung as a poster in the classroom.  This paper is a great price and can be used on any easel

    Use the lion and lamb imagery to work on feelings concepts and emotional learning.

    Social emotional learning plays a huge role in how we act, or behave. It’s all part of that self-regulation piece that impacts learning, interaction with others, and daily functioning.

    I asked my preschooler and first grader how a lion might feel and how a lamb might feel.  We talked about how lions are load and fast and how a lamb is calm and quiet.  As they mentioned describing terms, I just jotted them down on the columns. 

    Then, we looked at the whole list for each animal.  At this point, you can talk with the class about how we all feel all of these ways at one time or another.  Sometimes we feel soft-spoken and slow and other times we feel loud and “roar-y”!

    Self-regulation is adapting to and responding to sensory, emotional, and cognitive input.  The way our body and mind acts and thinks can get stuck if we don’t use our self-regulation abilities. Below, you will find a list of self-regulation strategies. They can be incorporated into occupational therapy’s self-regulation suggestions, or used to meet the child’s needs with adapting to and responding to sensory/emotional/cognitive input.

    Use the lion and lamb metaphor to help kids adjust in appropriate ways.  You can tell your child or students that there are times that it is appropriate to “be a lion” and there are times that it is appropriate to “be a lamb”.  

    in like a lion out like a lamb craftS

    Lion craft to use as a self-regulation activity for kids

    Then, take the discussion further by incorporating a lion and lamb craft.

    • Some ideas are using toilet paper rolls to make a lion and a lamb. Kids can work on the fine motor skills to cut out paper parts and glue them onto the toilet paper roll.
    • For some kids, the crafting experience can be an exercise in self-control, too!

    These lion and lamb themed activities would be another great way to incorporate a lion and lamb theme into discussion with your kids or classroom:  

    1. Make a pine cone lamb craft while talking about the qualities of a lamb. (Fireflies and Mudpies)  
    2. Use a lion and lamb ten frame to work sneak address math concepts with the same theme. (Fun-a-Day)
    3. Make these In like a lion and Out like a lamb puppets and get creative with the imagination play. (Still Playing School)    

    Talk about how “lion weather” might be blustery and fast, windy and stormy. It relates back to a loud lion that is rough, fierce, or angry.

    Lamb craft as a self-regulation activity for kids

    Then make a lamb craft out of a toilet paper roll. Kids can cut the paper pieces from cardstock or construction paper and work on gluing them on by copying a visual model. While crafting, discuss the qualities of a lamb, and how that relates to calm or soft voices, or peaceful and soft voices.

    Another idea is to use this lamb handprint craft. Simply make a handprint using white paint and draw on the features of a lamb. Children can make the lion craft in the same way by sing yellow paint and drawing on or gluing on feature of the lion.

    More Self-Regulation Activities


    Next, come up with techniques to adjust to situations when the child needs to switch from a lion to a lamb or vice versa.  One strategy is using sensory tools to help calm down or speed up our bodies.  Try these sensory activities as a list of self-regulation strategies to address many different needs and interests.

    Try some of these calming sensory ideas to calm down a “lion”

    • Wall push ups
    • Chair push ups
    • Carrying a stack of books
    • Pushing a laundry basket full of toys
    • Tug of war
    • Animal Walks
    • Yoga
    • Deep breathing
    • Stress toys
    • Drinking from a cup with a straw
    • A calm-down station or corner
    • Wrapping up in a blanket
    • Pillow sandwiches

    Try some of these ideas to alert a “lamb”

    • Jumping 
    • Skipping
    • Trampoline
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
    • Icy drink
    • Clapping games
    • Spinning on a swing
    • Dancing 
    • Brain Breaks
    • Playing catch

    More lion & lamb activities

    More sensory heavy work activities you may like:

    Proprioception Backyard Play Activities

    Fall Proprioception Activities

    Play Dough and Rocks Fine Motor Proprioception

    Ice Cube Proprioception Activity

    Spring Occupational Therapy Activities

    Add these lion and lamb ideas to your Spring occupational therapy line-up. Here are more ways to keep your therapy planning full for the next few months:

    Lion and lamb self regulation activities

    Free Lion and lamb Self Regulation Tool

    Print off this self-regulation PDF and work on identifying areas of self-regulation with a lion and lamb theme. This is great for the month of March, but can be used any time of year using the lion and lamb imagery.

    Self-regulation is a difficult skill for many children mainly because of the development happening along with outside influences in the world around them. Day to day tasks can feel very “out of ones control” to children. Add in emotions, communication struggles (We all struggle to communicate our feelings and emotions at one time or another!)

    Kids (and older…adults included) of all ages and developmental levels have a need to build on their self-regulation skills. Building self-regulation skills allows kids to deal with their emotions in appropriate and functional ways.

    When a child is able to control their emotions, they can adjust to situations while managing their feelings and behaviors.

    Using a lion and lamb metaphor is a concrete way for kids to learn about and understand self-regulation. Many times, kids understand when their body or brain is not in control. Situations can get away from a child, when they are unable to react or respond in an appropriate manner.

    Kids can use the idea of a lion and lamb to understand different ways that they might be feeling. This activity should be done in a separate time from breakdowns or tantrums. When a child is calm and open to talking about previous situations, sit down with the child or group of children and talk about how it might feel to be a
    lion and a lamb.

    How to use this self-regulation tool:

    • Ask the user to list out different ways a lion and a lamb might feel or behave. Write down different ways to describe a lion and a lamb.
    • Talk about how lions are load and fast and how a lamb is calm and quiet.
    • For younger users, consider writing down their responses as they dictate words that describe a lion or lamb.
    • Then, look at the whole list for each animal. At this point, you can talk with the client/student about how we all feel all of these ways at one time or another. Sometimes we feel soft-spoken and slow and other times we feel loud and “roar-y”!
    • Use the lion and lamb metaphor to help kids adjust in appropriate ways.
    • You can tell your child or students that there are times that it is appropriate to “be a lion” and there are times that it is appropriate to “be a lamb”.
    • Then cover various coping tools, self-regulation strategies, and other means to support potential self-regulation needs.


    You’ll find 6 different paper types in this packet to incorporate handwriting needs into the activity.

    Then, users can use the language that they have listed to address feelings or emotions. Create a strategy when they feel a certain way. Lion feelings might indicate a need for calming input or heavy work. Lamb feelings might need alerting input. This is a great tool to start talking about various needs and social emotional learning!

    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 Lion & Lamb Self-Regulation Tool

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      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.

      How to Support Self-Regulation in Preschoolers

      Here we are discussing the topic of how to support Self-Regulation in Preschoolers. For our youngest students, identifying emotions, and using self-regulation strategies for preschoolers is just hard. The preschool and Pre-K years are a time to work on emotional regulation through play and experience. Occupational therapy professionals can be a support and a service for parents, teachers, AND preschoolers in OT in the preschool years. Let’s break this down a bit…

      Self-regulation in preschoolers

      This blog includes 5 simple ways to support a preschool child’s ability to regulate their emotions using age appropriate strategies.  

      Self Regulation in Preschool

      Young children feel their emotions before they know what they mean. The first step to responding to a preschooler’s behavior is to understand what they are feeling when they are having trouble with regulation. Sometimes children need others to co-regulate while other times they need time on their own to self-regulate.

      When four year old, Anglea, screams at the top of her lungs, we hear the scream, but we don’t feel what she is feeling. The first step to responding to a child’s behavior is to understand how they are feeling.

      In order to do this, we need to take a step back and remember what it feels like when we become upset. Do you remember the last time that you were frustrated and wanted to scream? 

      Like the time that you were running late and you had to stop at every single stop light on the way to the grocery store. You are feeling annoyed right now, but you can deal with it. Then, the only open parking spot was at the every end of the parking lot (and it was next to a HUGE SUV that parked over their side of the line.) Ugh. You feel your fists clenching a bit as you try to squeeze out of your door. 

      When you walk up to the store, there are no grocery baskets. You walk back to the return basket spot in the parking lot to get a soaking wet basket. You roll your eyes as your patience is tempted. As soon as you walk into the store, you realize the shopping cart you picked is one that “squeals” across the floor. That’s it. You have had enough but you made it into the store and you are going to grab the milk that your two year old wants so she will sleep through the night tonight.

      As you rush to the milk aisle, you gasp as the only 2% milk left is the one she won’t drink. Your heart starts to race and you feel like crying. The last thing you want to do is go to another grocery store after the ordeal you already have had. So you grab the off brand milk and say a little prayer that she will drink it tonight. 

      You’ve had a rough day, but you are almost done. After standing in the 20 minute checkout line (because for some reason the grocery store decided to only have TWO checkout lines open at 5pm on a Friday) you are now able to load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. 

      You’re next in line. You text your husband that you are hurrying as fast as you can and then the worst thing happens. Over the loud speaker, a voice says “Sorry customers. Due to a technical difficulty, we are only able to accept cash or check. No credit cards are able to be processed.” 

      How do you feel now? You take three deep breaths as you are trying your best not to scream. You want to fall on the floor and maybe cry? Or you want to toss the milk to the side and run out the door screaming.

      You are so upset that you are having a hard time regulating.

      But you don’t. You leave the cart, walk to your car (saying some words under your breath) and head to the other grocery store for milk.

      Now picture your preschooler feeling that same way. What do they do? 

      Development of self regulation in preschoolers

      Development of Self-Regulation Skills

      Preschoolers need to practice self-regulating skills before they can control their responses. This foundational skill will help them manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Self-regulation skills develop over time. According to this article, even babies are able to self-regulate.

      The article states that in infancy, babies are able to self-regulate through strategies:

      • Shifting attention or averting gaze when overwhelmed
      • Self-soothing by sucking fingers or a pacifier to reduce distress

      As children gain new skills, they are able to self- regulate in different ways. This same article discussed the next steps in self-regulation development in the toddler years:

      The article describes toddler’s abilities to self-regulate through strategies such as: 

      • Focusing attention for short periods  
      • Adjusting behavior to achieve goals  
      • Beginning to label feelings  
      • Briefly delaying gratification  
      • Turning to adults for help with strong feelings 

      Self-regulation development continues in the preschool years. For kids ages 3-5, self-regulation is experienced in preschool-aged children through strategies such as:  

      • “Recognizing a growing array of feelings in self and others  
      • Identifying solutions to simple problems  
      • With support, using strategies like deep breaths and self-talk to calm down  
      • Focusing attention and persisting on difficult tasks for increased lengths of time
      • Perspective-taking and early empathy”
      Self regulation strategies for preschool students

      Preschool Self-Regulation

      Preschoolers love to engage in hands-on activities that teach a variety of concepts. One of the most important concepts is self-regulation. This skill can be taught and practiced at home, at school and out in the community. As children experience the world, there are so many different external circumstances that can trigger a child’s emotions. Each of these experiences gives preschoolers the opportunity to practice self-regulation techniques that they have learned. 

      Here are 5 ways to teach self regulation strategies to preschoolers:

      1. Soothing Sammy:

      Soothing Sammy is a preschool self-regulation strategy that uses an adorable golden retriever teaches children how to use their sensory system to calm down. The book, plush and playful activities all work together to help children create their own sensory basket they can visit whenever they need some extra calm down tools. With two simple words, “Sammy Time,” your preschoolers will be redirected to visit Sammy, the plush, at his house, use a cup of water, spot to jump or other sensory materials, to calm down. Once calm, children are able to talk about their feelings and problem solve. Soothing Sammy is perfect for classrooms and homes!

      2. Proprioceptive and Movement Based Input:

      Taking a heavy work movement break is a great way to redirect ourselves (like when we go for a run or go to the gym to cool down). This works for preschoolers also. Our other article includes over 50 ideas on how to help children calm down, including movement based input such as taking a walk and rocking back and forth in a chair. When we include proprioceptive input while moving, joint compression increases the ability for us to calm down fast! Some ideas include stomping, squeezing playdough, and stretching! 

      3. Calming Nature Sensory Bottle:

      Looking at calming visuals, like this calming nature sensory bottle, helps redirect our attention to something interesting and beautiful. These easy sensory bottle creation not only supports visual aesthetics, but it also reminds children of being outdoors in nature. This sensory bottle would be a great addition to the Soothing Sammy program.

      4. Emotional Vocabulary:

      Understanding how to describe our feelings, not only keeps us calm, but also helps us communicate our feelings to others. When children learn the words that match their feelings, they are able to come up with solutions with peers and adults. Playing emotion games, like the ones included in this article, will help even the smallest of children remember emotion words during times of stress. 

      5. Pretend Play: 

      Children learn so much while they play. Playing with peers and also participating in pretend play, allows children to act out scenes from different situations. These situations can be happy ones, stressful ones, adventurous ones and so much more! The use of puppets, baby dolls and dramatic play materials helps children formulate situations, discover different responses and make plans for if certain experiences happen in real life. This article goes into more detail about the importance of pretend play in social development.

      As children grow and develop, they experience the world in a variety of different ways. Sometimes everything goes as they planned, and other times, there are unexpected situations where they will need to manage their emotions. By teaching children self-regulation strategies, they will be able to respond to their emotions in a positive way, calmly plan their response and move forward with their day. 

      Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

      Relaxation Breathing: a Powerful Tool

      3 powerful relaxation breathing strategies

      If you’ve been a reader of The OT Toolbox website for long, you’ve probably seen our many deep breathing exercises. But have you ever wondered about HOW relaxation breathing works physically? How does the body calm as a result of mindful breathing strategies? Let’s explore the science of what’s going on with this breathing tool…and try out a few powerful relaxation breathing strategies.

      Relaxation breathing as a calming strategy for kids

      What is RELAXATION BREATHING?

      Relaxation breathing is a mindful approach at deep breathing as a strategy for resetting the body. Relaxation breathing includes a deep breath followed by holding that breath for a short period (6-7 seconds), and then slowly releasing the breath over a period of about 8 seconds. This slow approach to deep breaths resets the nervous system so that we can calm the body.

      This style of breath focus allows one to calm the body, manage anxiety, and self-regulate in different ways.

      With relaxation breaths, you’ll notice a few changes to the body:

      • Relaxation breathing slows the heart rate
      • Relaxing breath control allows the body to gains a sense of awareness
      • Relaxation breathing adds calming proprioceptive input through the movement of the ribs when deep breaths are taken in, held, and slowly released. This movement of the ribcage release tension and move blood through the kidneys or renal system through internal proprioceptive input.
      • When the renal system calms the adrenal glands, the production of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol are impacted, resulting in a lower state of stress.
      • Relaxation breathing engages the parasympathetic fibers in the membranes around the lungs, and has a calming effect.
      Try these 3 powerful relaxation breathing strategies with kids.

      3 Powerful Relaxation Breathing Strategies

      What’s more, studies have found that parasympathetic activity and CNS activities are related to emotional control and psychological well-being in healthy subjects during slow, relaxing breathing techniques.

      Here, we’ll cover 3 different ways to elicit the relaxation response:

      1. 4, 7, 8 breathing
      2. Breathing with the tongue on the roof of the mouth
      3. Nose Breathing

      4, 7, 8 Breathing

      Have you heard the term 4, 7, 8 breathing?

      4, 7, 8 breathing is a deep breathing strategy where a deep breath is breathed in for a count of four. The breath is then held for a count of 7, and then breathed out for a count of 8.

      During the time when the breath is held for a count of 7, you will notice that you can feel your lungs and ribs continue to expand. Try it!

      When that expansion occurs, the fibers in the lungs stretch. This “extra breath” is a powerful calming period. The ribcage expands more during this period, offering greater proprioceptive input, and activating the vagus nerve, which has a relaxing effect.

      Breathing out for a count of 8 has the same impact, where the longer breath period again moves the ribcage in a downward motion. Emptying the lungs pushes more air out and continues to offer that calming effect.

      In this way, 4, 7, 8 breathing is a relaxation strategy because the counts and time of breaths in, held breath, and breathing out trigger a relaxation response.

      Try 4 7 8 breathing for yourself!

      breathing with tongue on roof of mouth

      Another calming breathing strategy is the tongue posture with breathing with tongue on roof of mouth.

      In this relaxation strategy, the tongue rests on the roof of the mouth for a simple reason: this tongue posture ensures that the individual is breathing in and out through the nose.

      Also, when one is breathing with the tongue on the roof of the mouth, the tongue adds proprioceptive input through the palate in a calming manner.

      Try breathing with your tongue on the roof of your mouth for yourself!

      Breathing through the nose

      As explained above, when the tongue is resting on the roof of the mouth, nose breathing is ensured. Here’s why that is important:

      When breathing in and out with the tongue on the roof of the mouth, nose breathing is enabled, and the parasympathetic response results in relaxation.

      When breathing though the nose, the structures of the nose actually regulate airflow and slows the flow of air because of the those physiologic structures.

      This PDF titled The Healing Power of the Breath explains more.

      Try breathing through your nose for yourself!

      Relaxation Breath Strategies

      Hopefully, these relaxation breath strategies have offered some explanation on how deep breathing in both the 4, 7, 8 method, nose breathing, and breathing with the tongue on the roof of the mouth are powerful relaxation breath tools to use in self-regulation and coping.

      Try these additional relaxing breathing activities paired with the breath strategies listed above.

      Deep breathing exercise cards in playing card size for games and sensory needs
      Deep Breathing Exercise Cards

      Help kids with coping strategies using themed, practical belly breathing strategies that work.

      • Includes A-Z alphabet exercises for whole body exercises
      • 9 different themes to use in learning or therapy themes
      • Oral motor exercises for heavy proprioceptive input through the mouth, tongue, and lips
      • Exercises that can be used any time or anywhere!

      Need help getting kids to focus, pay attention, or calm worries? Need help with self-regulation in a calm-alert, ready-to-go state, so they can learn, play, and function?

      Achieving a self-regulated state of focus, attention, and being ready to go doesn’t need fancy therapy equipment or sensory tools. Deep breathing exercises are tools that we can all use, any time, and any place!

      These deep breathing exercise cards includes 113 different deep breathing exercises that can be printed and used in therapy, home programs, the classroom or at home.

      Grab your copy of Deep Breathing Exercise Cards here.

      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.

      Snow Globe Breath Awareness

      snow globe breath awareness exercise

      Here, you’ll find a printable snow globe activity designed for breath awareness. This breath awareness practice uses a snow globe theme. Paired with other deep breathing exercises, this resource is a concreate way to help kids develop breath awareness as a coping tool for self-care and mindful breathing.

      Add this snow globe breathing exercise to a snow globe theme, including our recent snow globe letter matching puzzles.

      Snow globe breath awareness exercise for kids to use in mindful breathing with a snow globe theme.

      Breath Awareness

      Mental health struggles are so overlooked and underdiagnosed.  Recently a push for mental health awareness has gained some traction.  If you are or know someone who is struggling, you know how difficult it is to get the right help.  Waiting lists to see a doctor can seem like a mile long. Getting in to see the right specialist takes time and persistence.  

      In the meantime, or to prevent further damage, a little self care can go a long way. Before taking on all of the challenges of the the classroom, learning, or functioning in general, take time for a little self care. 

      When we use breath awareness strategies as a tool for self-care, we are becoming more mindful of how our breath impacts regulation. Breath awareness results in a calmer state. This in turn allows for mindful participation, or being present in the moment, rather than a focus on internal or external stressors.

      This strategy can help with breath control as well. Try to settle the snow globe with slow and steady breaths from the bottom of the lungs. A long and slowed breath can help to calm the whole body, so when imagining a snow globe, use that long and slow breath to settle the snow, not stir it up.

      Don’t let it add to your stress as one more thing to do, but take five minutes to remind yourself of the possibilities each day.

      In addition to finding help and working on self care, becoming more aware of breath and it’s impact on the body and mind is an excellent step to reducing stress and improving mental health.

      Snow Globe Meditation

      The OT Toolbox has several excellent printables and tools to help develop strategies for reducing stress, decreasing arousal level, or improving focus. The newest printable in the Deep Breathing Series is our Snow Globe Deep Breathing Printable. 

      The snow globe meditation tool you’ll find below is a printable PDF breathing exercise. Beyond the easy usability with this printable deep breathing exercise, is the way that it can be used in conjunction with a real snow globe.

      A snow globe is a powerful tool for meditation. If you’ve ever shaken up a snow globe, then you probably can picture the sense of calmness that comes over you as you watch the snow inside the globe first swirl furiously and then slowly settle to the bottom of the glass globe.

      This imagery can be paralleled to internal stressors.

      When we feel stressed by thoughts, emotions, or external stimulants, you might feel like a swirling storm is inside of you. It’s hard to focus on a thought just like it’s difficult to focus on one swirling snowflake in a winter storm. But, with time, the snow slows and settles to the bottom of the snowglobe.

      You can use a snow globe imagery to help kids feel calm and focus on breath awareness as a self-regulation tool.

      Snow Globe Breath Awareness Tool

      To use this page, begin by having kid identify their emotions and feelings. Help them to become more aware of breath by describing their breathing, focus, stress levels as swirling like a shaken up snow globe.

      Then put your finger on the first white dot. Trace the arrow and take a deep breath in. Pause at the end of the arrow and breathe out.  Continue around the image several times while breathing.

      Then ask kids to describe their emotions, heartbeat, feelings, and breathing. Ask the user to identify how their breathing and other identifiers have changed. Are they feeling more like a settled snow globe? Or do they still feel “shaken up” and swirling? If so, repeat the breath awareness exercise.

      What else can I use the Breath Awareness Printable for?

      In sensory speak this activity can be used for modulation and improving arousal level.  This basically means practicing self regulation and calming, by focusing the energy on a single activity rather than the offending or overwhelming sensory input.

      This Breath Awareness PDF can also be used to improve focus.  Learners can practice channeling their energy onto the page to begin to learn to attend to one item at a time.  This will help practice self control.

      Mindfulness is not new.  It has been around for centuries. In western medicine, mindfulness is commonly taught in dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT treatment. According to the writers at Mindful, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.  Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.”

      The OT Toolbox has an informative page of resources for mindfulness.  Check it out!

      While learning DBT, I tried to learn mindfulness.  I learned I am not good at it.  I can not slow my mind enough to sit without doing or thinking.  As a DBT activity, I clocked how many thoughts went through my head in 60 seconds.  I had over 20 different thoughts one of the days I tried this task.  I one minute!  Imagine people who meditate and are proficient at mindfulness can sit for HOURS thinking of nothing, just listening to nature or attending to their breathing. 

      That’s where this snow globe breath awareness task comes in as a mindfulness tool to help identify breathing and overall awareness.

      How can I modify this activity?

      • Laminate this PDF to make it reusable
      • Print in full color to make it more motivating
      • Instead of deep breathing, use the activity to place coins on each of the dots, then use the pointer finger to slide to the next arrow.  This develops in hand manipulation.
      • Create a modulation kit of printables, and other sensory items to work on self regulation, stress reduction, and attention/focus. The OT Toolbox has several printable deep breathing exercises and a pack of cards to specifically address this goal year-round.

      What other strategies can I use for calming and organizing?

      • Winter Mindfulness Activities
      • Sensory fidgets such a putty, koosh balls, coil bracelets
      • Chewing gum
      • Journaling and creative writing
      • Aromatherapy
      • Heavy work
      • Exercise/yoga/Pilates/walking
      • Pet therapy 
      • Music
      • The list is endless, work with each of your learners to find out what helps them with their self care

      Free Snow Globe Breath Awareness Printable

      Want to download a copy of this snow globe breathing exercise? Enter your email address into the form below to access this printable tool. Note that this resource is also available for immediate download inside the OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can grab the PDF immediately simply by clicking a button.

      Snow Globe Breath Awareness Exercise

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        With all of the holiday fun and excitement, do take time out for self care and deep breathing.  It will be worth it!

        Just keep breathing!

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L

        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.

        Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

        Star of David Printable Deep Breathing Activity

        Star of David Printable Deep Breathing exercise

        Today I have another one of our mindfulness activities: a Star of David Printable that focuses on deep breathing. This particular deep breathing exercise was a special request by dozens of our readers. So, I knew that for those teaching or providing therapy services to kids in Jewish schools and homes, this would be a big hit.

        Star of David printable deep breathing exercise

        Star of David Printable Deep Breathing Exercise

        You’ve probably seen our other holiday and seasonal deep breathing exercises. They all focus on offering a fun and motivating way for kids to reset.

        Deep breathing strategies can help kids calm down, focus, and to re-group when they need to specifically focus on mindful participation in activities. It’s a powerful calming strategy.

        That’s where this Star of David Printable comes into play. It can be used during Hanukkah, or it can be used any time of year!

        Incorporate this deep breathing tool into other seasonal and themed activities:

        Free Star of David Printable for Deep Breathing

        Want to print off your copy of this free Star of David printable for deep breathing and mindfulness? Enter your email address into the form below to access this resource.

        Note that this printable is also found inside our Member’s Club. Members can log into their account and access it, along with hundreds of other printable resources, tools, activities, and crafts to help kids thrive.

        Free Star of David Deep Breathing Exercise

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          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 if you had themed, NO-PREP activities designed to collect data and can help kids build essential fine motor skills?

          Take back your time and start the year off with a bang with these done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands with our Winter Fine Motor Kit. This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world. 

          The Winter Fine Motor Kit includes reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

          Emotional Regulation Games

          emotional regulation games

          If you are looking for tools to support and develop self-regulation skills, then you are in the right place. In this post, you’ll find emotional regulation games for self-regulation and specifically, Zones of Regulation games. These children’s games for emotional awareness and self-regulation were selected because they are fun ways to support emotional regulation, self-control, and social emotional skills through game play. And, importantly, they support and teach the Zones of Regulation program by playing games. Be sure to check out our comprehensive list of children’s books to teach the Zones of Regulation, too!

          Emotional regulation games to support emotional awareness an self-regulation and teach Zones of Regulation or other regulation curriculum.

          Emotional regulation Games

          Using over-the-counter games as emotional awareness tools is a cheap and creative way to foster the engagement of children in the learning process of emotional awareness and self-regulation. 

          Children love playing games and using them in this manner provides a great therapeutic tool for kids to practice these important skills.  Granted, some games do help children work on self-regulation naturally while others need just a little adaptation to make them worthy of being called self-regulation and emotional awareness tools.  

          How to use games to support emotional regulation

          How exactly do you use over-the-counter games to help children learn about feelings and emotions?

          Think about how the simple playing of a game or just a slight adaptation to the game can create the just right therapeutic activity to help children work on identifying and expressing feelings and emotions. Maybe just adding simple facial expressions, emojis, or even a descriptive word to the board, tokens, spinner, or the game cards could give the ‘just right’ challenge for a child. 

          How exactly do you use over-the-counter games to help children learn self-regulation skills

          Think about how playing these games naturally can help children to practice emotional regulation skills:

          • Recalling the rules
          • Keeping their focus
          • Attention to game play and the play of others
          • Accepting and coping with winning and losing
          • Flexibility of thinking as they play against an opponent
          • Inhibition of impulses during play

          These are all necessary skills that are directly related to self-regulation. 

          Zones of Regulation Games

          Take the time to consider how you may be able to adapt or modify an over-the-counter game allowing game play to incorporate regulation and emotional awareness programs such as, The Zones of Regulation®, The Alert Program®, and SuperFlex…A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum®.

          Maybe just adding the colors from these curriculums like red, orange, yellow, green, and blue might be all you need to do to easily add-in learning of these curriculum concepts during play. 

          Adapted Over-the-Counter Games

          Over-the-counter games are a great go-to and others have taken the time to do just what is discussed here.  Read on to discover some of the fun ways that others have used to address these important skills with children of all ages.

          Amazon affiliate links are included below.

          Don’t Break the Ice Coping: This game can be used to help children learn and discuss coping strategies by having them perform the techniques or discuss strategies that are printed on each ice block. Makes a wonderful self-regulation game by simply just writing on the blocks – easy! 

          Grab Don’t Break the Ice HERE.

          Don’t Break the Ice Worries: This game was adapted with the simple use of dots and 4 questions. How easy is that? Makes it a unique way to have children share about worries, what happens in their bodies, gain some understanding, and learn helpful coping strategies. 

          Grab Don’t Break the Ice HERE.

          Connect 4 Emotions: This game is adapted by simply placing emotions stickers on the red and yellow chips and when a player picks up a piece to place it, they must share a time that they have felt that emotion. This can easily be used to identify emotions or even identify an appropriate coping strategy to deal with an emotion.

          Grab Connect 4 HERE.

          Emotions Twister: This is a super fun way to work on emotions while using the Twister mat and incorporating the Zones of Regulation® colors by drawing facial expressions on the dots! Makes for a great supplement to the curriculum! 

          Grab Twister HERE.

          Emotions Uno: Using a deck of Uno cards, children talk about the emotions related to the card colors with an adult providing subject prompts. Children can talk about experiences and the emotions they felt during those times.

          Grab UNO HERE.

          Feelings Jenga or Exploring Emotions Jenga: This is a fun way to help children explore and talk about feelings and emotions by having children answer questions related to specific emotions. Makes a great tool to use in small groups!

          Grab Jenga HERE.

          Feelings Mancala: This old-time game has been turned into a game for emotional awareness and development. Facial stickers are placed into the bottom of each hole on the board and then the game is played with each player sharing about a time they felt a particular feeling or emotion. 

          Grab Mancala HERE.

          Another idea is to simply use the Jeepers Peepers Guessing Game Glasses or the Hedbanz Headbands with cards from the Superflex curriculum. Children don the glasses or headbands from these games and then place the Thinkable or Unthinkable cards onto the glasses or headbands and have a child try to describe them.

          Grab Headbanz HERE.

          Classic Games to teach emotional regulation

          How about trying some of the classic games or even classic toys that we all know and love but that do not require the use of a board game?  That’s right.  Enjoy these fun ideas designed for children to learn about emotions and feelings as well as self-regulation and coping. 

          Feelings Matchbox Cars Parking Lot: Kids love Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars and there are cars designed for every child’s interest.  But have you thought about using them to park in spots of a feelings and coping parking lot? Makes an easy DIY activity using some classic toys! 

          Grab Matchbox Cars HERE.

          Hopscotch: This is a super easy gross motor activity that kids can use to identify and discuss emotions and feelings.  Makes a classic turn into a newbie! 

          Grab this Portable Hopscotch Board (with Zones Colors) HERE.

          Hula Hoops and Zone of Regulation: Everyone loves to try using a Hula Hoop!  Kids and adults alike will pick one up and try to play with it.  This activity uses this fun classic toy by helping children identify the different zones and what makes one be in that zone. So, they are learning about the feelings while also learning about curriculum concepts. 

          Grab a Hula Hoop set in Zones colors HERE.

          Zones of Regulation Lego Towers: Kids enjoy building with Legos and they have been a core toy for years and years. Children see Legos and they immediately go to them and begin creating something fun! Try using them to create some fun Lego Towers that helps children identify emotions, feelings, and coping strategies. Makes for Lego love on a whole new level! 

          Grab DUPLO blocks HERE. (larger blocks)

          Grab LEGO blocks HERE. (Smaller blocks for hand strengthening)

          Social Emotional Games

          Maybe you have the money to spend on actual board games that address the skills of emotional awareness and self-regulation.  If so, take a look at these fun games designed just for that purpose!

          BBQ Emotions – This game has large skewers that help children to recognize and manage 10 different emotions. Children will discuss them and how to deal with them as if they are ingredients. This makes for a fun game that can be played individually or in a small group. 

          Grab BBQ Emotions HERE.

          Emotion-oes – This fun domino game helps children to recognize and identify emotions by matching the pieces just as they would if playing regular dominoes.

          Emotional Roller Coaster – This anger management game helps children learn coping and calm down strategies when they are experiencing the feeling of anger.

          Grab Emotional Roller Coaster HERE. 

          Emotions Bingo – This simple bingo game helps children to recognize and identify emotions by scanning and matching the pieces just as they would if playing regular bingo. It helps kids to talk about how to handle feelings in a healthy way.

          Grab Emotions BINGO HERE.

          Grab Emotions BINGO for Teens HERE.

          My Feelings Game – This game has 280 scenarios that help children to express their feelings and how to cope with them appropriately. 

          Grab My Feelings Game HERE.

          Social Skills Board Games – This is a set of board games designed to help children work together to improve their overall social skills and can help children to learn about their feelings and the feelings of others. One particular board game is designed to show emotions and how to manage them.

          Grab this 6 Pack of Conflict Resolution Games HERE.

          No Waries – This game is a social emotional card game that helps children to learn about and understand emotions and in turn, helps them to acquire important social emotional skills.

          Grab No Waries HERE.

          So, get brave and use your over-the-counter OT eye to find a game or toy that you can use to help a child build or develop important social-emotional skills while having some creative fun!

          Regina Allen

          Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!