Learning to identify and regulate emotions is a big job, especially for little kids! However, this skill is essential for students to master in order to be successful in school (and in life). Zones of Regulation, a curriculum developed by Leah Kuypers, an OT and autism resource specialist, helps kids understand and learn to manage their emotions.
Rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, the Zones of Regulation is a framework that uses four colors–blue, green, yellow, and red–to help students identify their feelings and level of alertness. The curriculum also provides strategies to support emotional regulation. Teaching students how to read their body’s signals, detect triggers, read social context, and consider how their behaviors impact those around them, leads to improved emotional control, sensory regulation, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills.
To learn more about the Zones of Regulation, check out this unit by The Calming Corner, these resources from He’s Extraordinary, and this slideshow from MontanaCEC.
Here are 15 engaging activities to support the Zones of Regulation in your classroom or at home with online learners.
1. Identify feelings by giving them a color
These workbooks walk students through exercises that help them identify their emotions and triggers. Try the pre-K–2 workbook for younger students and the middle school edition for students in grades 6–9.
2. Play a round of Emotions Match-Up
Kind of like UNO, this match-up game poses thought-probing questions about emotions, situations, and strategies. This game helps teach kids how to manage their emotions and also fosters their conversation skills!
Source: Speech Paths
3. Make Cootie Catchers
You know kids are going to make them anyway, so why not make a version that helps kids review and understand the Zones of Regulation? Each color-coded corner teaches students the feelings and coping skills that go along with each zone. Best for grades 3 and up.
Source: Everybody is a Genius
4. Play Behavior Bingo
Distinguish between awesome actions (like showing respect and encouraging others) and bummer behavior (like using hurtful words or goofing off during work time) with this fun version of bingo. Five awesome actions in a row = BINGO! Great for small groups or whole class, grades 1–4.
Source: Counselor Keri
5. Play the Emotions Sorting Game
You can play this free printable emotions sorting game with kids at school or at home to help them learn to recognize and identify the many emotions that are part of the human experience.
Source: Mom Endeavors
6. Practice impulse control with this version of CandyLand
Games are the best way for kids to learn without even realizing they’re learning! These custom-made cards go along with the standard version of CandyLand and help kids learn impulse control skills. Best for grades K–3.
Source: Ashley Hughes
7. Make spinners
Source: Wholehearted School Counseling
This fun activity is a great addition to your calm-down corner. Students can pick strategies that work for them to get into the green zone and back on track. Best for grades K–5.
8. Role play with task cards
Role play is a great activity for helping students rehearse acceptable behaviors. These task cards help students build emotional self-control by rehearsing responses to different scenarios that may trigger strong emotions. Best for grades 4–7.
Source: Pathway 2 Success
9. Go on an emotions scavenger hunt
A fun way to help students identify feelings by using emojis and their power of observation. Recently updated for at-home learners as well as whole class Zoom lessons, check out the full lesson plan. Best for grades K–6.
Source: Mosswood Connections
10. Build emotional toolboxes
What can students do to regulate their emotions when they veer away from the green zone? This toolbox of activities includes a handy flipbook chock full of ideas. Each tab covers a different zone and gives students strategies to regain control. Best for students in K–3.
Source: Valerie Steinhardt
11. Create a sensory-break center in your classroom
Provide students with a safe place to take a break when they need to regulate their emotions. Include resources for strategies that will help them manage. For a free copy of the poster shown and tons of great ideas for what to include in the space, follow the link below. Best for grades K–8.
Source: The Dynamic Duo Adventures in Speech and Special Ed
12. Stock your sensory-break center with strategy cards
These awesome break cards tap into a favorite set of characters–Pokemon! Each card helps students identify which “zone” they are in and strategies for managing the emotions they are feeling. Available as a PowerPoint, Google Slideshow, and also a printable PDF. Includes 4 cards for each of the 4 zones.
Source: Social CJ
13. Empower students with these contingency maps
Throughout the school day, students make behavior choices (for better or worse). Use these picture maps to help students understand the consequences of making different choices. They are very effective because they illustrate the results of both desired and undesired behaviors in a concrete way. Best for students in K–5.
Source: The Autism Helper
14. Encourage self-regulation with these desk nameplates
Post these interactive nameplates on students’ desks to help them self-regulate their emotions and feelings by paying attention to what zone they are in. Throughout the day, students self-monitor their emotional state by sliding a paper clip along the zone boxes on the left. If students are in the yellow, blue, or red zone, they can use one of the strategies in their toolbox to help them get back to green. Each student’s toolbox will vary, depending on which strategies work best for them. Best for grades K–5.
Source: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
15. Share resources with families
Meltdowns and emotional regulation impact the entire family. Share this blog with your families to help them develop strategies with their kids at home. Full of helpful tips and valuable information, this is a great resource to help support calmer, happier kids.
Did we miss any of your favorite Zones of Regulation activities? Let us know in the comments!
Want more tips on behavior management? Make sure to sign up for our newsletters!