• Julia Kallmes

Help Your Child Navigate Their Emotions with the Zones of Regulation

As an early educator, I lean heavily on the Zones of Regulation. This tool helps children:


1) identify how they are feeling.

2) identify how others are feeling.

3) successfully navigate difficult emotions.


The concept is rather simple but powerful. The Zones divide emotions into four major categories, which are assigned colors:


Blue Zone- sad, tired, sick, bored

Green Zone- happy, calm, cheerful

Yellow Zone- nervous, wiggly, shy

Red Zone- angry, mad


I introduce the zones using a visual like this one:


Follow-Up Activities

Read-Alouds

After introducing the Zones, I will reference them when we read books. As you read your child a story, ask your child which zone a character is in. Here is a list of children's books with emotive characters:


Check-Ins

At school, we do daily check-ins. Each child takes a turn telling us what zone they are in. I pass around a visual so they can simply point if they do not feel up to talking. Keep a visual of the zones at home, and ask your child periodically which zone they are in. Share how you are feeling as well.


What Can We Do When We Feel...?

When I ask the children, "Is it ok to be mad/in the red zone?" they often exclaim, "No!" I explain how it is ok to feel mad, how everyone feels mad sometimes, and that it is (unfortunately) a part of the human experience.


However, I always add, "Is it ok to hit someone if we're mad? Is it ok to say unkind words if we're mad? Of course not! What can we do if we're really mad?" I honor how everyone copes with strong feelings differently. Some children prefer to take a deep breath, others want to be alone, while still others might seek a hug. Help children identify what helps them when they feel angry.


Sometimes it helps to act out or talk through specific scenarios, and I often borrow them from actual problems that arise in class. For example, I act out having my block tower knocked over, taking a deep breath, and asking the person who knocked it over to help me rebuild it.


I love this song from Daniel Tiger, and we sing it all the time.


In Summary

The Zones of Regulation are a helpful tool for emotional regulation. Introduce them, use them, and consider doing regular check-ins and referencing them while reading books together. Equip your child with strategies for coping with negative emotions.

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