As stated in our school vision, at New City Primary school we want all children to become responsible, confident members of a global society who can apply their experiences at New City to all future learning. A key way we hope to accomplish this is by supporting pupils emotional wellbeing and teaching them to develop strong self-regulation skills to enable them to become resilient in the face of challenge. In order to teach these self-regulation skills, we have implemented a ‘Zones of Regulation’ or ‘Zones’ approach across the school.
The Zones of Regulation is an internationally-renowned approach, designed by Leah Kuypers, an occupational therapist which helps children to manage difficult emotions, known as ‘self-regulation’. Self-regulation can go by many names such as ‘self-control’, ‘impulse management’ and ‘self-management’. Self-regulation is best described as the best state of alertness for a situation. For example, when your child takes part in a sports game, they would need to have a higher state of alertness than when, for example, they were working in a library.
From time to time, all of us (including adults) find it hard to manage strong feelings such as worry, anger, restlessness, fear or tiredness, and this stops us from getting on with our day effectively. Children who feel these emotions often find it hard to learn and concentrate in school. The Zones of Regulation aims to teach children strategies to help them cope with these feelings so they can get back to feeling calm and ready to learn. These coping strategies are called ‘self-regulation’.
At New City Primary School, we use the Zones of Regulation throughout the whole school. We want to teach all of our children good coping and regulation strategies so they can help themselves when they experience anxiety and stress. In the classroom, sometimes children panic when faced with a tricky learning problem or challenge. By teaching them how to cope with these feelings, we might make them better at tackling learning challenges and build better resilience so they don’t give up so easily when faced with difficulty.
We want children at New City to grow into successful, resilient and responsible young people. Teaching the children at a young age about managing their feelings will support them to adopt positive strategies to manage their emotional and mental health throughout their life.
What are the Zones?
Blue Zone: Low level of arousal; not ready to learn; feels sad, sick, tired, bored, moving slowly.
Green Zone: Calm state of alertness; optimal level to learn; feels happy, calm, feeling okay, focused.
Yellow Zone: Heightened state of alertness; elevated emotions; has some control; feels frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, loss of some control.
Red Zone: Heightened state of alertness and intense emotions; not an optimal level for learning; out of control; feels mad/angry, terrified, yelling/hitting, elated, out of control.
The children are taught that everyone experiences all of the zones at different points. It will be explained to them that the Red and Yellow zones are not necessarily ‘bad/negative’ zones and that we may experience all of them at one time or another.
How will my child learn about the Zones?
All staff throughout the school will use the language of the Zones during daily school life to describe their own emotions, and identify the emotions of others. There are interactive Zones displays in every classroom, to support pupils to share their emotions with their teachers and to remind pupils of the different regulation tools they can use to support themselves to feel calm and ready for learning. Additionally, all of our lunchtime supervisors and learning mentors who support pupils in the playground have ‘Zones’ keyrings to use with pupils during play and lunchtimes. Further to this, discrete lessons on the Zones of Regulation are taught termly during three dedicated drop-down days: 13th October 2023, 9th February 2024 and 7th June 2024.
Autumn term – Zones day
Zones of Regulation Day – 13.10.23
On Friday 13th October 2023 we had our first whole school ‘Zones Day’. Throughout the day, all of our lessons focused on recognising and managing our emotions by using the Zones of Regulation. All our pupils thoroughly enjoyed themselves, with our Deputy Head boy Dawud (6J) proclaiming it "the best day of Year 6 so far!".
Photos + videos:
How can I use the Zones of Regulation with my child at home?
• Identify your own feelings using Zones language in front of your child (e.g.: I’m frustrated. I think I am in the Yellow Zone.”)
• Talk about what tool you will use to be in the appropriate Zone (e.g.: “I need to take four deep breaths to help get me back to the Green Zone.”)
• At times, wonder which Zone your child is in. Or, discuss which Zone a character in a film / book might be in. (e.g.: “You look sleepy. Are you in the Blue Zone?”)
• Engage your child in discussion around Zones when they are in the Red Zone is unlikely to be effective. You need to be discussing the different Zones and tools they can use when they are more regulated / calm.
• Teach your child which tools they can you. (e.g.: “It’s time for bed. Let’s read a book together in the comfy chair to get you in the Blue Zone.”)
• Regular Check-ins. “How are you feeling now?” and “How can you get back to Green?”
• Modelling It is important to remember to show the children how you use tools to get back to the green zones. You might say “I am going to make myself a cup of tea and do some breathing exercises because I am in the blue zone” and afterwards tell your child how using those tools helped you get back to the green zone.
• Share how their behaviour is affecting your Zone. For example, if they are in the Green Zone, you could comment that their behaviour is also helping you feel happy / go into the Green Zone.
• Put up and reference the Zones visuals and tools in your home.
• Praise and encourage your child when they share which Zone they are in.
Tips for practising the Zones of Regulation:
Know yourself and how you react in difficult situations before dealing with your child’s behaviours.
Know your child’s sensory threshold. We all process sensory information differently and it impacts our reactivity to situations.
Know your child’s triggers.
Be consistent in managing your child’s behaviour and use the same language you use at home.
Empathise with your child and validate what they are feeling.
Have clear boundaries/routines and always follow through.
Do not deal with an angry, upset child when you are not yet calm yourself.
Discuss strategies for the next time when you are in a similar situation.
Remember to ask your child how their choices made you feel (empathy).
Praise your child for using strategies. Encourage your child to take a sensory break to help regulate their bodies.
Create a ‘calm’ box full of things which help to keep your child calm and alert. Advice about what could go in the box can be found here.
Can my child be in more than one zone at the same time?
Yes. Your child may feel tired (blue zone) because they did not get enough sleep, and anxious (yellow zone) because they are worried about an activity at school. Listing more than one Zone reflects a good sense of personal feelings and alertness levels.
Should children be punished for being in the RED Zone?
It’s best for children to experience the natural consequences of being in the RED zone. If a child’s actions/choices hurt someone or destroys property, they need to repair the relationship and take responsibility for the mess they create. Once the child has calmed down, use the experience as a learning opportunity to process what the child would do differently next time.
Can you look like one Zone on the outside and feel like you are in another Zone on the inside?
Yes. Many of us “disguise” our Zone to match social expectations. We use the expression “put on a happy face” or mask the emotion so other people will have good thoughts about us. Parents often say that their children “lose it” and goes into the Red Zone as soon as they get home. This is because children are increasing their awareness of their peers and expectations when in the classroom. They make every effort to keep it together at school to stay in the Green Zone. Home is when they feel safe to let it all out.