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 can be helpful for kids who struggle with self-regulation. Here, you will find zones of regulation strategies and tips to work on self-regulation of emotions through fun and interactive activities. These are DIY Zones activities that you can make as part of your occupational therapy treatment and can be used over and over again!
Zones of Regulation Activities
Activities to support emotional regulation and coping skills can come in many forms. There are zones of regulation posters, worksheets, self-regulation checks, zones of regulation games, and even cootie catchers. 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…
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 which 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.
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.
There are many curriculums, 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.
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Many programs, curriculums 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.
Recently, at our clinic, we have begun to focus on and use the Zones of Regulation program as this program is what most of our children use in their schools and homes. This program helps 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.”
So, what is the Zones of Regulation do you ask?
Well, in brief summation, it 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.
These zones help a child recognize, categorize, and communicate their feelings or emotions based on a specific zone. This makes the program an effective and fluid tool for a child to understand, learn, and achieve without feeling judged or different.
Let’s quickly review the zones so you can have a better understanding of the reason behind my fun tool creations. I designed these tools 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 zone, which is better for participating and learning at school, home, church, and in therapy.
What do the Colors in the Zones of Regulation Program Mean?
The Red Zone is an extremely heightened state of alertness with intense emotions and is typically viewed as the child being “out-of-control.” Examples include: elation, rage, anger, devastation, etc.
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 include: nervousness, wiggly/silly, frustration, excitement, etc.
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 include: positive, calm, happy, focused, content, etc.
The Blue Zone is a low level of alertness typically viewed as the child running slow. Examples include: sick, bored, tired, sad, etc.
Fun Zones of 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.
How can you use zones of regulation activities to improve self-regulation?
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.
1. Zones Pocket Play for Emotions and 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 (red, yellow, green, and blue). 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 Zones Pocket Play for Emotions and Coping Strategies Folders can be used in the home or classroom.
2. Zone 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.
3. Zone 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 zone title 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.
4. Zone 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.
Zones of Regulation Activities at home and at school
Now that you know the simple materials you need, go ahead and make these fun and easy 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. Some of these can even go on-the-go when out and about in the community!
This post was written by The OT Toolbox contributor, Regina Allen. Read about Regina in her Contributor Author Spotlight.