Tadley Community Primary School

Tadley Community Primary School

Zones of Regulation

Zones of Regulation - All you need to know!

What is regulation?


A person who can self-regulate is able to ...

  • Remain calm and organised in a stressful situation (Executive Functioning)
  • Cheer themselves up after a disappointment (Emotional Regulation)
  • Knows when they are experiencing sensory overload and can make adjustments (Sensory Processing)
  • Understands when it is appropriate to cheer and shout and when to be quiet (Social Cognition)

What are the different zones?


The BLUE ZONE is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when you may feel sad, tired, sick or bored. We are expected to be in our BLUE ZONE just before bed time or when we are watching a light-hearted program on TV. We are running slow. However, this is an unexpected zone to be in when learning or doing physical action. In this zone we also find it hard to try anything new or take risks and we can become upset by the actions of others very quickly. Our window of tolerance is very low.


The GREEN ZONE is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as being happy, focused, content and ready to learn. This is the zone when optimal learning occurs. It is when our brains and bodies are relaxed and focused. We are ready for anything and are able to persevere and control our reactions to others.


The YELLOW ZONE is used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles or nervousness. We are expected to be in this zone when we are playing outside at break or lunch time, at the end of the day and it is time to go home, looking forward to a birthday party, taking part in a competition or playing a computer game. We are 'alert' and we can lose a little control and be easily distracted. We can find it hard to calm when we are in our YELLOW ZONE and may need help to regulate. This is when our window of tolerance is smaller. Our reactions can be stronger and might appear out of proportion to the situation. New learning is difficult when we are in this zone as we are distracted.


The RED ZONE is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions. A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, devastation or terror. We find it hard to control our emotions and actions. Our bodies are in their survival state - fight, flight or flee - and we need help to regulate ourselves but also time to do so.


REMEMBER - There are NO wrong Zones. It is okay to feel in each of these zones.

What we have to do is learn how to manage our zones, feelings and behaviours.

Key Messages about the Zones of Regulation


  • Zones are based on feelings NOT behaviours - it is a cognitive behaviour approach.
  • All zones are okay - there is no bad zone.
  • Everyone experiences all the zones at different times and in different circumstances and you can be in more than one zone at a time.
  • It is not about compliance from children, it is about helping children manage their zones and understand their feelings.
  • The Green Zone is not the goal - we need to take care of our zones, learn to manage our feelings and regulate ourselves.
  • We can't change the way someone feels but we can help them manage those feelings and how they may respond in their behaviour. For example: 'It is okay to be angry but it is not okay to lash out at someone.'
  • How we teach the Zones of Regulation matters - children need to feel comfortable that all their feelings are valid and learn to access the tools to help them regulate. We need to use a shared language and refer to our own zones.

What shared language can we use in school and at home with children?



Something that has caused a child to become less regulated and increases the likelihood of going into their Yellow or Red Zone.

Expected Behaviour

Behaviours that give people around you good and comfortable thoughts.

Unexpected Behaviour 

Behaviours that give or make people around you feel uncomfortable or have uncomfortable thoughts.

Stop, Opt and Go

A concept to help children control impulses and problem solve. Stop, choose the best option, Go.

Inner Critic (we also call this 'The Trash Man from our HeartSmart Program)

Used to describe negative and self-defeating thoughts.

Inner Coach

Used to describe positive thoughts.

Superflex Thinking

A flexible thinking patter used to see other people's points of view or other solutions to problems

Rock Brain Thinking

A rigid thinking pattern when children are stuck on an idea and can't consider other people's points of view or solutions.

Size of the Problem

What is the size of the problem? Is it a big or little problem? 

Big Problem - no easy fix.

Medium Problem - can be resolved over time - this might be over an hour, within a day or slightly longer.

Little Problem - only affects one or two people and can be resolved really quickly.


A collection of calming or alerting activities a child can use depending on the present need. 


The activities that are in your toolkit.

What do I need for my Toolkit?


BLUE ZONE TOOLS - things to wake our bodies up such as stretching or star jumps; things to make us feel better such as medicine, a cuddly toy, a blanket; things to help us regain focus such as an adult helping with our work or a quick run around outside.


GREEN ZONE TOOLS - help us stay calm, focused and feeling good. They are proactive tools and strategies such as drink some water; think happy thoughts; read a book; play; or exercise.


YELLOW ZONE TOOLS - help us regain control and calm ourselves such as lazy-8 breathing; mindful colouring; meditation; go for a walk; or a snack/drink.


RED ZONE TOOLS - help us stay safe and start to calm down such as taking some time out in a safe space; using breathing techniques; eat or drink something; find an enjoyable activity until feeling calm again; talk to a friend; or kick or throw a ball around in a safe space.