An Introduction to The Zones of Regulation

December 29, 2021

Each day we react to situations, other people, and our emotions through the course of our daily events and interactions. As adults, we utilize principles of self-regulation to help us deal with the ups and downs of our daily lives; engaging in yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, or walking away from a situation, just to name a few. These types of tools foster healthy and appropriate reactions and support good decision-making skills.


As a child with or without challenges, it can be difficult to recognize or have the ability to understand tools and strategies to help in times of anxiety, anger, frustration, and sadness. The Zones of Regulation is a curriculum that provides a straightforward way for children to recognize the emotions they are feeling and determine what support they need to become well-regulated.

The Zones of Regulation: An overview
The Zones of Regulation is comprised of lessons and activities designed by Leah Kuypers, M. A. Ed., OTR/L, to help students gain skills in the area of self-regulation. The learning activities are designed to support children in recognizing when they are in the different states of alertness or moods, called “Zones.” Additionally, children learn how to use strategies, including sensory supports, calming techniques, and thinking strategies, to move between Zones when needed.

For all of us, each day is different and each day we can be in a different zone. Some days everything works exactly according to plans and other days are so chaotic and unstructured that we need to tap into tools and strategies to get us through. It is important to recognize where we are at emotionally and mentally, and how to change it based on the environment we are in and to help children thrive in their environments to succeed at their goals, boost their self-esteem and weave into the culture feeling confident and able to make decisions and where to look for help.

What are the Zones?
The Red Zone
An extremely heightened state of alertness and intense emotions; may be described as “out of control.” A person may be in the Red Zone if he is elated or if he is experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror.

The Yellow Zone
A heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions but with some control. This may come from stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness.

The Green Zone
A calm state of alertness, essential for appropriate classroom behavior. A person in the Green Zone may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn.

The Blue Zone
A low state of alertness, such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

Who are candidates for using The Zones of Regulation curriculum?
The Zones of Regulation curriculum gives the intangible idea of emotion and self-regulation and gives it a tangible structure. Therefore, it is a good fit for children who struggle with complex, indistinct concepts. This can include children living with mild sensory challenges, ADHD, mild autism with good verbal communication and comprehension skills, and children with behavioral management needs.

Benefits of using The Zones of Regulation curriculum
In The Zones of Regulation curriculum, students become more aware of their emotions and impulses. They also become more independent in managing their sensory needs. Additionally, students are able to improve their ability to problem solve when conflicts arise.

Are you interested in having your child participate in The Zones of Regulation Curriculum? Contact us for an appointment to meet with one of our occupational therapists who can help determine how to best meet the needs of your child.

Kuypers, L. (2011). The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control. Santa Clara, CA: Think Social Publishing.

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