The Zones of Regulation
At the John Henry Newman Academy, we understand and the importance of promoting positive mental health, emotional wellbeing and emotional literacy to both our children and families. We use the ‘Zones of Regulation’ curriculum to teach pupils to identify their emotions in both themselves and others. We can are then able to supply them with a bank of strategies to help them regulate their emotions and improve their wellbeing. Through this, our aim is to create a culture of openness round the discussion of mental health and wellbeing so that our children, and families, are empowered to regulate their emotions.
This curriculum begins right down in the Early Year where they begin learning to identify different emotions using characters from the film ‘Inside Out’ to help explain them to children in Upper Key Stage 2 discussing how our behaviour can impact upon the feelings of those around us.
What are The Zones of Regulation?
The Zones of Regulation curriculum is a framework designed to help children develop self-regulation skills, allowing them to better understand and manage their emotions. The program categorises emotions into four colour-coded zones: the Blue Zone (such as feeling sad or tired), the Green Zone (representing a calm and focused state), the Yellow Zone (signifying a sense of frustration or excitement), and the Red Zone (indicating anger or extreme excitement).
By teaching children to recognise and categorise their emotions into these zones, the curriculum empowers them with the tools to identify how they are feeling and provides strategies to move between zones appropriately. This not only enhances emotional awareness but also promotes the development of effective coping mechanisms, fostering better self-regulation and emotional well-being in children. For example, when your child is playing a game in P.E. they may be in the yellow zone with a heightened state while if they were to visit the ‘Librarium’ to share a book, the yellow zone would not be appropriate.
Some of the aims of The Zones of Regulation:
- Enhance Emotional Literacy: The Zones of Regulation aims to improve your child’s emotional literacy by helping them recognise and understand their feelings. This foundational skill enables them to express emotions in a healthy manner, fostering open communication with you and others.
- Enable Self-Regulation: The curriculum strives to equip your child with practical tools for self-regulation. By identifying the four colour-coded zones and learning corresponding strategies, your child gains the ability to independently navigate and manage their emotions, promoting a sense of control and resilience.
- Develop Coping Strategies: The Zones of Regulation focuses on teaching your child a diverse range of coping strategies tailored to different emotional states. This equips them with a toolbox of techniques to effectively cope with challenges, stressors, and various emotional experiences they may encounter.
- Foster Social Understanding: Through the Zones of Regulation, your child learns not only about their own emotions but also about the emotional experiences of others. This increased social understanding encourages empathy, cooperation, and positive social interactions, contributing to healthy relationships with peers and adults.
- Promote Academic Engagement: Improved emotional regulation positively impacts academic performance. By providing your child with the skills to stay in the optimal Green Zone—calm and focused—they are better positioned to engage in learning, problem-solving and decision-making, ultimately supporting their overall academic success and well-being.
How can you help your child use The Zones of Regulation?
- Start using the ‘Zones’ Language: Introduce and consistently use the Zones of Regulation language at home. Encourage your child to express their feelings using the colour-coded zones by modelling this yourself, for example, I’m a bit frustrated – I think I’m in the yellow zone.
- Model Emotional Regulation: Children often learn by observing. Demonstrate healthy emotional regulation by sharing your own experiences with the Zones and discussing how you manage different emotions. For example, I need to take 4 deep breaths to help me get back to the Green Zone.
- Create a Calming Corner: Designate a specific area in your home as a “calming corner” equipped with sensory items and tools aligned with the Zones of Regulation strategies. Encourage your child to use this space when they feel the need to self-regulate, providing a designated and safe area for them to practise coping techniques.
- Incorporate Daily Check-Ins: Implement a daily check-in routine where you and your child discuss which zone they are in and why. This brief conversation allows you to stay attuned to your child’s emotional state, reinforcing the habit of self-awareness. Use this time to brainstorm potential strategies to navigate challenging emotions.
- Encourage and Celebrate Zone Success: Praise your child when you see them effectively using the Zones of Regulation. Positive reinforcement reinforces their efforts to self-regulate. Acknowledge their awareness and use of appropriate strategies by offering specific compliments, such as “I noticed how you took deep breaths when you were feeling frustrated; that’s a great way to stay in the Green Zone!”
It is important to note that everyone experiences all of the Zones – the Red and Yellow Zones are not the ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ Zones. All of the Zones are expected at one time or another.
As part of our learning about the Zones of Regulation, children show which zone they are feeling after transition times in a discreet way. In each of the classrooms and shared spaces there is information about how you might feel in each zone and strategies children can use to help themselves.
When children need some time to reflect, after time to regulate their emotions they complete a reflection sheet (see below). This can either be completed independently or with a familiar adult but they are always discussed afterwards with a focus on what can we do now to make the situation better and have success for the rest of the day.
It is important to remember that these tools aren’t just for school: they can be used at home too. You too can help your child to regulate (manage) their emotions.
Have a look at some of the strategies below to decide what would go in your Zones of Regulation toolkit? Think about:
- What helps you to calm down when you are stressed?
- What helps you to focus when you are tired?
- What do you do to calm down when you are angry?
Different tools work for different people, there is no ‘one size fits all’. You can help your child choose what works for them when they need to move from one zone to another using resources and objects you already have at home!
Sensory tools include anything which you can see, touch/feel, smell, hear or taste. They also are things which encourage you to move.
- Having a bear hug
- Using a wobble cushion
- Using a weighted toy or blanket
- Ear defenders / headphones
- Blowing bubbles
- Watching changing coloured lights
- Soft, dimmed lighting
- Fidget and squeeze toys or putty
- Smelling relaxing scents like Lavender
- Eating chewy food
- Swinging or rocking
- Eating a strong mint
- Wall push-ups
- Sucking a smoothie or milkshake through a straw
- Rolling on a balance ball
- Listening to classical music
- Having a dance
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Having a nice warm bath
- Listening to bird / nature sounds
- Going for a walk or run
These include any activities which distract you or need you to focus to take your mind off worries and negative thoughts.
These are strategies to challenge negative thoughts and help a child to deal with problems.
Make sure you frequently praise your child for having expected reactions rather than just pointing out the unexpected reactions.
Instead of ……
Try Thinking ……
|I’m not good at this!
|What am I missing?
|I give up!
|I’ll use some of the other strategies I’ve learned.
|This is too hard!
|This might take some time and effort.
|I can’t make this any better!
|I can always improve; I will keep trying.
|I can’t read!
|I’m going to train my brain in reading
|I made a mistake!
|Mistakes help me to improve.
|I’ll never be as smart as her/ him!
|I’m going to ask them what they do and try it.
|It’s good enough!
|Is this really my best work?
Grounding techniques can help someone who is extremely anxious or scared, has lost control and is struggling to calm down.
Playdough is a great sensory tool to help children when they are feeling in the yellow or red zone. This is an easy recipe you can use to make playdough at home. Here is a link to the ‘dough disco’ – great for developing fine motor skills, hand strength and calming down! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOLR3pQt8zg)
How to make playdough
Makes 1 coloured ball
Prep 10 minutes
You will need:
8 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp table salt
60ml warm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the water, a few drops of food colouring and the oil.
- Pour the coloured water into the flour mix and bring together with a spoon.
- Dust a work surface with a little flour and turn out the dough. Knead together for a few minutes to form a smooth, pliable dough. If you want a more intense colour you can work in a few extra drops of food colouring.
- Store in a plastic sandwich bag (squeeze out the air) in the fridge to keep it fresh. You can make a batch of colours and give away as kids’ party bag favours or hold a playdough party