Zones of Regulation
The Zones of Regulation is a curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control created by Leah M. Kuypers.
In 2021, the Senior Leadership Team of Orchard Primary School took the decision to roll out use of The Zones of Regulation, previously used with identified individuals, as a whole school approach. We felt that these were relevant and valuable skills for all of our pupils to learn and develop. We have also found that it has helped us to develop a common language across the school through which to discuss emotions and behaviours.
Teachers share the content of the curriculum flexibly with their classes in line with their age and stage of development and in response to the needs of the cohort. Some individuals and small groups work more intensively with the materials to support their particular needs. Some content is covered in assemblies for the whole school to access. All classrooms have the Zones on display.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation can be described as the ability to adjust your level of alertness (including your senses, emotions and impulses) to fit the situation you are in and express this through socially appropriate behaviours. For example, the level of alertness required to read a book in a library and that needed to compete in a football match are very different, and the socially expected behaviours in each situation would also differ. It encompasses the skills of self-control, resilience, anger management, impulse control and sensory regulation.
What are the Zones of Regulation?
- A framework to simplify how we think about and manage our feelings and states
- A supportive teaching tool
- It categorises complex feelings and states into four coloured ‘Zones’
- It improves the ability to recognise and communicate feelings in a safe, non-judgemental way
- It helps develop ‘tools’ to move between Zones
It is not:
- A discipline model or behaviour approach
- Punitive or shaming of negative behaviours
The Blue Zone: a low energy state where the ‘slow’ feelings reside, e.g. sad, tired, bored, sick
The Green Zone: the optimum state for the classroom and includes feelings such as: happy, calm, focussed, proud
The Yellow Zone: a high energy state where the ‘fizzy’ feelings are found, e.g. excited, frustrated, anxious, silly
The Red Zone: an ‘out of control’ state including feelings such as: angry, aggressive, terrified, elated
- There is no ‘bad’ Zone, all Zones are ‘expected’ at different times and in different circumstances
- You can be in more than one Zone at a time
- Some emotions may fall into more than one Zone
- Toolbox: a collection of calming and alerting strategies a child can draw upon (can be a literal toolbox or a collection of known strategies)
- Tools: calming or alerting strategies that support self-regulation
- Trigger: something that causes the child to become less regulated and increases the likelihood of going into the Yellow or Red Zones
- Stop, Opt, Go: a concept to aid children in controlling impulses and problem solving better solutions
- Expected behaviours: behaviours that give those around you good or comfortable thoughts about you
- Unexpected behaviours: behaviours that give people uncomfortable thoughts about you
- Inner Critic: negative, self-defeating thoughts
- Inner Coach: positive, helpful thoughts
What can I do to support the Zones of Regulation at home?
Identify your own feelings using Zones language in front of your child (e.g. “I’m feeling frustrated because….. , I am in the Yellow Zone….”)
We can’t change the way children feel BUT we can help them manage their feelings/states and behaviours by saying “It’s OK to be angry but it is not OK to hit…”
Talk about which tool you will use to be in the appropriate Zone (e.g. “I’m going to go for a walk as I need to get to the Green Zone.”)
Provide positive reinforcement when your child is in the Green Zone and if they make efforts to stay in the Green Zone. Eg. “I can see you are working really hard to stay in the Green Zone by…”
Label which Zones your child is in throughout the day (e.g. “You look sleepy, I wonder if you are in the Blue Zone?”)
Teach your child which Zone tools they can use (e.g. “It’s time for bed, let’s read a book together to get to the Blue Zone.”)
Post and reference the Zones visuals and tools in your home (Zone check in stations and toolboxes for the family!) Make portable Zones cards together.
Take turns choosing emotions from a stack of cards or papers and act it out using only face and body clues. Guess each other’s emotion, discuss which Zone it’s in and why. (Added challenge: Name a tool you could use when feeling that emotion).
- People watch and guess the feelings/zones of others.
- Name the feelings of characters while watching a movie (and point out any strategies they
- Play “Name that feeling”