Parenting -Improving Self Control-Self regulation Skills -Behavior tips


positive parenting
  • In today’s unpredictable world, the route to raising kids who are kind, cooperative and happy can be hard to navigate.

  • For parents, there’s an underlying pressure to bring up well-behaved children that meet societal expectations, while also providing them the space to become who they are meant to be. At times, these two concepts seem to be at odds.While doing research on the subject, I discovered a method to parenting that emphasizes guidance over control.

  • As a positive parenting advocate, I have to say the distinction is a game changer, and I’m a huge fan of the guiding approach. It was a real eye opener to discover that most of my parenting was done via control!

  • Guiding a child (rather than controlling) encourages their autonomy and agency as an individual, while allowing the parent to be in control of the situation. Guidance can improve relationships and offer kids the room to explore their own choices within clearly defined boundaries.

  • Guidance vs Control Parenting Styles Defined:

  • Guidance: Encouraging a child to be their best self, while allowing them to make choices and decisions, with parental support and love.

  • Control: Can be coercive, authoritative, manipulative or critical. Controlling a child may hinder their ability to build important decision making skills and impede self identity.

  • A critical aspect of guiding a child is respect. Remember, your child is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Respecting their autonomy will instill trust in your relationship.It’s also important to have discussions with empathy. Get down on your child’s level to better understand their behavior, before immediately reacting and inflicting consequence. Follow the positive parenting mantra, to share calm, without contributing to escalation.Let’s break it down via conversation styles.

  • Ordering vs Explaining:

  • Examples: Order: Clean your room right now.Instead, try this:Explain: When your room is clean, it’s easier to find things when you need them. It also sets the tone for a good day, to wake up in an organized bedroom. Want to give it a try?

  • Cooperation vs Coercion:

  • Examples: 

  • Coercion: Clean your room or I’m going to take your tablet away.

  • Instead, try this:Cooperation: Let’s clean your room together, and get it done faster. 

  • Criticism vs Feedback:

  • Examples:

  • Criticism: Your room is a disaster. You’re messy.

  • Instead, try this:Feedback: I’ve noticed that your room is a little messy. You may find that you feel more organized if you keep your room clean.Dictate vs Discuss

  • Examples:

  • Dictate: You better have your room cleaned by the time I get home.

  • Instead, try this: Discuss: Let’s come up with ways to organize your room so it is easier to keep clean.

  • Notice the difference?Talk to kids about the “why” of what you are requesting. Help them understand, for example, why having a clean room will positively affect them, without criticizing for being messy.
    It’s important to note that yes, while controlling a child, temporary results are possible. For example, most children will act swiftly when a parent threatens removal of a favorite toy or game.

  • However, if we place emphasis on raising kids with a growth mindset, control no longer fits in the equation.Children with a growth mindset know they can overcome challenges and learn new ways to accomplish things. It is resilience that we want to build, not concession. Ask yourself, do you want your child to comply out of fear? Or because it is the right thing to do?If guidance is the key, kids will come to their own conclusions about making good choices, as it is what they’ve been trained to do.

positive parenting

Lastly, use your best judgement to determine when control is absolutely necessary. In dangerous situations control over a child becomes paramount. If the behavior is risky or malicious, guidance may not be the correct approach. There are times when controlling a child is the natural parental reaction, and that’s okay too! It’s not practical to assume guidance will always be the go-to method. These tools are meant to guide, not to guilt us into feeling like bad parents.And remember, we’re all in this together. 
For more positive parenting techniques, 
Read up on Positive Language Alternatives


I came across this quote from author L.R. Knost not long ago and it has become my mantra for calming meltdowns, tantrums and anything in between.“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm not join their chaos.”Tantrums are a completely normal part of child development. It’s how our little ones express themselves over anything from discomfort to simply not getting what they want.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not exhausting, frustrating and down right chaotic to try and diffuse them. Sometimes the response that our children need the most is the hardest to offer in the moment. In my experience, the most effective method for disarming a tantrum is a calming, positive approach.

Here are 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums that may help to deescalate meltdowns and preserve your sanity.

1.) Remain Calm

It is entirely true that children feed off of our emotions. If we treat a child’s tantrum with fierce anger and frustration it is possible to intensify the tantrum rather than mitigate it. Try to remove all emotion and focus on yourself, especially the guilt or embarrassment which can heighten feelings of overwhelm (remember, every parent has been there!) Your child isn’t trying to give you a tough time, they’re having a tough time.

2.) Use Positive Language Alternatives

Avoid the use of “no” if at all possible and try these positive language alternatives.

3.) Try a Calming Diversion

Does your child have a favorite book or comforting blanket? Offering these items could help console a child during a tantrum. Other tools could be a calming jar (such as these), relaxation activities such as deep breaths or yoga poses, essential oils, and songs. When the meltdown occurs in a public place without access to these tools, try removing them from the environment in which the situation began. If your child runs, throws or hits during a meltdown assess surroundings to ensure safety before approaching.

Hugging is an excellent use of diversion, but always ask if they need a hug beforehand. Studies have shown that proprioceptive input through hugging is extremely helpful for regulating the senses and helping tame a tantrum. Something as simple as a tight squeeze can provide a sense of calm & return your child to the moment.

4.) Observing and Learning

Is there a pattern or trend for where these tantrums occur? Say, in the toy section at Target or when deciding on what to wear in the morning? Research indicates that events leading up to a tantrum can be critical to whether or not it actually occurs. Noticing where and when your child is likely to have a tantrum is essential in diffusing or avoiding it altogether. Maybe bypass the toys next time at the store, or offer options on outfits in the morning so your child feels in control. Another thing to keep in mind is choosing battles wisely. Ask yourself this question:Will this decision impact my child down the road?

Examples: Something like, wearing a helmet on the tricycle could potentially have long term effects and is probably a battle to be fought. Forcing a child to hug a relative before they leave (and thus inducing an incident) is likely not life altering. Maybe have a conversation later about hugging and why we show affection instead of ensnaring yourself in an emotionally escalated situation.

5.) Consistency and Not Caving

A sure-fire way to keep the tantrums coming is to cave or give in to the tantrum. For example, if a child melts down in the candy aisle begging for a lollipop, giving her the lollipop will underline the negative behavior and reinforce it for next time. If the child is denied the lollipop repeatedly, it’s possible for them to learn that a tantrum in this particular instance will not get them what they want. Be consistent and confident with your choices as you know best for the child, not vice versa.

Hey mama, taming tantrums can be tough! Check out the Mental Health Task List to encourage self care and preserve your sanity!



Well, let’s break it down. 

“Self” means you or me.  “Regulation” means the process of being in control or to have management. So, add these two terms together and you get “self-regulation”.

Self-regulation means you or me being in control and having management of ourselves.

Self-regulation is a skill that many children have a difficult time learning and achieving without help. In a given day, a child (and an adult) encounters multiple situations and circumstances that require an awareness of self and others as well as the ability to have or gain self-control.

Self-regulation is the ability to attain, maintain, and change one’s arousal level, emotions, and behaviors. This ability to self-control relies on impulse control, working memory, and generally speaking, the ability to keep oneself “in check”. The ability to experience feelings and desires and make decisions based on those concepts requires motivation, willpower, higher level thinking.

zones of regulation activities

First, let’s cover what self regulation means.

Generally speaking, a child should achieve an optimal level of self-awareness and mindfulness to identify their inner feelings and emotions and be ready to regulate themselves when the time comes. They need to learn strategies and techniques that work for them to assist them in leaving a less optimal level in order to get back to a “ready-to-go” level of regulation.

Here are more mindfulness activities that kids can use in addition to their “Regulation Toolbox”.


Generally speaking, there are many activities to support emotional regulation. These coping skills can come in many forms. In this resource, you will find specific activities to add to a self-regulation toolbox, so that monitoring and maintaining a functional level of regulation is possible in any situation.

There are emotional regulation posters, worksheets, self-regulation checks, regulation games, and even cootie catchers.

Other emotional regulation therapy strategies can include using the traffic light emotional regulation concept where the red light, yellow light, and green light of a traffic light are considered for emotions and behavioral responses.

All of these regulation tools are strategies to help kids become more aware of their self in order to function. Let’s break it down further and look at how and why this program works, but also where to go next when it comes to regulation strategies.


It requires the ability to self-monitor our thoughts, actions, feelings, internal body processes (interoception), and then make choices. These decisions can sometimes occur in a moment. For some, this instantaneous decision-making can lead to poor regulation.

Self-regulation can refer to emotional regulation or behavioral regulation. Self-reflection of feelings, emotions, and our response to situations is the ability to use emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation can look like a bad decision based on inner thoughts, or being in a grumpy mood and as a result being mean to a friend. Emotional regulation has to do with inner decisions related to emotions and moods.

Behavioral regulation refers to decisions related to actions and what we say, do, or think in response to inner thoughts and desires.

I think we can all say that one time or another we had something that we were expected to do but we really did NOT want to do.

Examples of behavioral regulation include:

  • Maybe that was mow the lawn when we really wanted to watch a movie inside.

  • Maybe we wanted to sleep in when we actually had to get up for an early meeting.

  • Knowing that those tasks needed to be done and making the decision to do them rather than giving into impulses is a form of self-regulation.

In another great resource, we covered the connection between executive functioning skills and emotional regulation.


A self-regulation program like the ones listed above are a helpful strategy for supporting self-control skills and self-regulation that impact behavioral responses. These strategies can be helpful for our children (and us adults!) to use during everyday tasks in our daily lives, whether that be schools, work, community, and homes. 

These self regulation tactics help kiddos to identify, address and use strategies to achieve good self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way. Using the zones helps to take the focus off of the child as being “good” or “bad” and places the focus on obtaining control to get back to the “green zone.”

A self-regulation blueprint can be created that includes helpful strategies and self regulation activities that can be used when needed to support children.

These strategies actually teaches the child and their parents or teachers how to recognize the relationship between emotions, feelings, and their internal “state of being” with the behaviors and actions that we see.

This self awareness relationship impacts attention, learning, and emotions.


When students understand the connection between their arousal states and their ability to self-regulate, they can identify different zones or levels which they are currently in at any given time.

This is the ability to have self awareness, body awareness, and make choices that impact self regulation.

They can then use regulation tools or strategies to impact their arousal so they can appropriately and efficiently respond to the demands of a given task.

These different levels of regulation help a child recognize, categorize, and communicate their feelings or emotions based on a specific knowledge of how one’s body and mind respond to situations. This is self awareness and self regulation in action!

One of the most important steps to self-regulation is having the self-awareness that something is “off” and we need to do something physically emotionally, or cognitively and that a change must happen. This is where understanding the nervous system is important for the adult in the situation. Understanding what is happening behind the limbic system, the vestibular systemproprioceptive system, and overall sensory processing systems are key.

This makes a self-regulation strategy an effective and fluid tool for a child to understand, learn, and achieve without feeling judged or different.

Let’s quickly review the various aspects of self-regulation and different feelings or emotional experiences that occur along a spectrum so you can have a better understanding of the reason behind my fun tool creations.

We designed the regulation tools shown below for individual children to help them better understand and navigate their emotions while identifying strategies that help them shift from a less desirable zone to a more calm and focused space, which is better for participating and learning at school, home, community, church, therapy, or any environmental location where the individual participates.

Zones of regulation activities and self-regulation curricula


There are many different programs that offer self-regulation curriculum. These are regulation programs and interventions that can assist a child (and adult) to learn the skills necessary to achieve emotional regulation fit for every situation, circumstance, and environment.

I use a simple analogy with tempertures:
If you are cold outside-you put a coat on or use other strategies to help you feel just right.. 

If you are hot, you use statagies to cool down until you are just right. You will teach your little one ways to cool down until he can do it on his own. The same is true with emotions that you experiece frequently. You use stategies to mellow you out or rev you up when you are down..

Co regulate- simply means that you go through the process together so your child learns the emotions that they frequently experience and the strategies to get they emotions and energy back to be just right. As they learn to go through the process and how to regulate themselves they will complete the process on their own.

Perhaps your child loses it at the slightest frustration. Maybe emotional and sensory meltdowns are a part of your daily routine.

What’s Co-Regulation?

Children can’t learn healthy self-regulation without first experiencing co-regulation with a safe consistent caregiver.

Additionally, children must have the opportunity to learn about their emotions and internal states of arousal (alertness).

Further, they need support to develop different emotional regulation strategies that work for them.

Even more importantly, they need to practice using their growing emotional awareness and coping skills.

Let me repeat this. Kids need SAFE opportunities to practice using newly acquired self-regulation skills.

Listen to episode 23 of the podcast, How to Parent an Angry Kid, for more support.


Anger Management for Autistic Children (Not ABA)

What Are the Zones of Regulation?

Resources based on the Zones of Regulation are a great teaching tool for kids and adults.

The Zones of Regulation curriculum was designed by an occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, MA. Ed, OTR-L.

According to the Zones of Regulation website, the Zones curriculum uses a cognitive behavior therapy approach to help people,

regulate… feelings, energy, and sensory needs… to meet the demands of the situation around us and be successful socially.

The entire program is available on the Social Thinking Company website. However, the chart alone is a great resource.

Specifically, it’s a visual tool that helps children identify and communicate their different emotions. Within a Zones of Regulation chart emotions and physical sensations are categorized within different zones.

Each zone is a different color and represents different levels of alertness often associated with different emotional states.

Learn More in Behind the Behavior Book!

white parenting book for special needs adoptive moms on white table with coffee mug and greenery lying next to it

Yes! Tell me more about Behind the Behavior!

What Does Each Zone Mean?

In the official Zones of Regulation, there are four zones.

  1. Green Zone

  2. Yellow Zone

  3. Red Zone

  4. Blue Zone

To get us on the same page, let’s dive into the different zones and what each one means. Remember that each zone is meant to help children identify various emotions as well as their level of alertness.

In the end, these zones foster self-regulation and social-emotional learning.


11 Best Feelings Picture Books for Kids (That Every Family Needs)

29 Best Sensory Toys for Autism, ADHD & Anxiety (2023)


zones of regulation activities for red zone

The Red Zone is an extremely heightened state of alertness with intense emotions and is typically viewed as the child being “out-of-control.”

Red zone behaviors might include:

  • Anger

  • Rage

  • Out of control

  • Mad

  • “Hands on” physical reactions

  • Terror

  • Extreme feelings

  • Feel “ready to explode”

  • Devastation

Regulation Activities to support anger, physical reactions, extreme feelings, and “out of control” feelings may include:

zones of regulation activities for yellow zone

The Yellow Zone is entering a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions typically viewed as heading toward the red zone, but the child still has some control.

Examples of Yellow Zone behaviors include:

  • Nervousness

  • Wiggly

  • Silliness

  • Anxious

  • Worried

  • Frustration

  • Excitement

Regulation Activities to support worried or anxious feelings, frustration, silliness, nerves, or the wiggles may include:

  • Stretching

  • Yoga

  • Enjoy nature

  • Drink a glass of water

  • Listen to music

  • Write in a journal

  • Activities listed under the other areas

zones of regulation activities for green zone

The Green Zone is the optimal level of alertness and is typically viewed as the child being “good to go” and ready for leaning and social interactions.

Examples of the Green Zone behaviors include:

  • Positive responses

  • Calm

  • Ready to go

  • Happy

  • Focused

  • Content

Regulation Activities to support calm or focused feelings, feelings of contentment, happiness, positivity, and being ready to learn or join friends may include:

  • Write in a journal

  • List out accomplishments

  • Help someone

  • Reach out to a friend

  • Activities listed under the other areas

Note that when in the “green” zone according the the Zones of Regulation framework, that it’s not the end goal. This is a level of feelings that all may experience at one time or another, but it’s not necessarily considered “good” vs. “bad” when experiencing other feelings.

Strategies listed above for these feelings can be ways to journal about how one is feeling, talk to another person, expressing gratitude, or reaching out to others.

Zones of regulation activities for

The Blue Zone is a low level of alertness typically viewed as the child running slow.

Examples of Blue Zone responses include:

  • Sick

  • Bored

  • Tired

  • Sad

Regulation Activities to support those who feel sad, tired, bored, or sick may include:

  • Talk to someone

  • Rest

  • Build a puzzle

  • Read a book

  • Color or draw

  • Think about positive mindset strategies

  • Activities listed under the other areas


Just like there are no two children alike, and no two teens or adults alike, there is no exact blueprint to these self-regulation strategies.

Each individual will likely use different sets of mechanisms to support regulation needs.

What works for one individual may not work for another.


11 Best Feelings Picture Books for Kids (That Every Family Needs)

29 Best Sensory Toys for Autism, ADHD & Anxiety (2023)

Meltdowns Impact the Entire Family

Daily, moms and kids alike are being slammed with layer upon layer of stress.

I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve all experienced some form of anxiety.

Often, we adults don’t respond to our anxiety in the healthiest, most appropriate ways. 

  • We snap at our hubbies,

  • Yell too loudly at our kids,

  • or shovel chocolate chips down our throats (Wait. Is that just me?)

However we choose to release tension, if we don’t identify the cause, we may end up with broken relationships with those we love. 

Or, if you are in the chocolate chip shoveling crew (please tell me I’m not alone), your waistline and health take a hit.  

29 Best Sensory Toys/Tools for Autism, ADHD, & Anxiety 2023

Their Behavior IsA Form of Communication

Behavior is information and a form of communication.

When kids “act out,” they’re communicating something that they can’t easily verbalize.

Think about it this way.

We, moms, know the frustration when we can’t find a word.

furious wife steam coming from ears

“Honey, can you please get me that thing off of the thing?”

My husband looks at me with a blank stare.

My blood starts to boil.

The Need to Communicate

Without the ability to let it out verbally, kids act out behaviorally.

That’s when emotional and self-regulation tools can support positive mental health for the entire family.


47 Emotional Regulation Activities for Kids Every Mom Needs!

Anger Management for Kids:

8 Meaningful Ways to Calm Big Emotions


Anger Management for Kids | Learn how to teach children self-control with these anger management tips for kids. From coping skills and behavior charts to fun kids games and effective stress relief tips and toys, teaching children to control big emotions isn’t as hard as you might think. We’ve even rounded up 26 super fun anger management activities for kids that feel more like play than work!

Picture this: you’re standing in the middle of Target when your child spots a LEGO toy he wants and when you tell him he can’t have it, all hell breaks lose. He throws himself on the floor screaming and wailing, and the disapproving looks from passersby make you wish the floor would open up and swallow you. You know from experience that yelling isn’t the most effective strategy when it comes to anger management for kids, but you’re starting to lose control.

Sound familiar? I thought it might.

Dealing with an angry or explosive child isn’t easy. Big emotions can get out of hand very quickly, and when we’re already exhausted, sleep deprived, and feeling out of our depth, staying cognizant of appropriate anger management for kids can be difficult.

The good news? We’re not alone.

Millions of parents have fought the fight before us, and the internet is filled with all kinds of tips and tricks to help us empower our children to deal with their emotions.


Check out 8 of our best tips to help you grasp the oh-so-complex concept of anger management for kids below and remember: this too shall pass!

Be a good role model

The first step in teaching proper anger management to our children is to model appropriate emotional regulation ourselves. If we scream and swear the moment something upsets us, our child will learn to do the same. But if we practice deep breathing, listen to relaxing music, or go for a long walk when anger threatens to take hold, we will teach more effective – and acceptable! – coping mechanisms to those who look up to us. Remember to think before you act, verbalize your feelings in an acceptable manner, and take responsibility when you do lose control.

Use the ‘one minute reprimand’ technique

In his book, The One Minute Mother, M.D. Johnson Spencer discusses an effective technique for reprimanding unwanted behavior in our children whereby we attack the BEHAVIOR and not the CHILD. By taking one minute to verbalize why we are unhappy with the way our child behaved, pausing for a moment, and then following up with a hug or expression of love, we will make our displeasure clear while ensuring our children know they are still loved and that we still respect them as people.

Establish clear rules

A great tool with regards to anger management for kids is ensuring clear rules are communicated on a consistent basis. By explaining what the rules are, what’s expected, and what is and isn’t appropriate, and taking the time to give our children regular reminders, we are setting them up for long-term success. The easier the rules are, and the more consistently we reinforce them, the easier it is for our kids to meet our expectations.

Use positive reinforcement

Reinforcement is a fabulous technique parents and caregivers can use to increase the likelihood that a child will repeat a desirable behavior, and while both positive and negative forms of reinforcement can help with teaching appropriate anger management for kids, research tends to suggest that positive reinforcement is the most effective. Sticker charts are a simple, yet effective, form of positive reinforcement that can be extremely motivating for kids. This Dry Erase Reward Chore Chart is my favorite as you can easily customize it for your individual child.

Create a calming ritual

When kids are angry, they often don’t know what to do about it. Their anger often comes from a feeling of helplessness in a situation. By teaching them some tried and true calming techniques, we can help them not to feel so helpless. Have them take a deep breath. As many as it takes to get them to feel somewhat stable. Then have them smile. Even if they don’t feel like smiling, the act of doing so has been proven to lift spirits. Finally, have them give the biggest fake laugh they can give. Usually, fake laughing will lead to real laughing. But even if it doesn’t, by the time they are done they will be feeling far more calm and able to talk things through.

Keep stress relief toys on hand

There are many products on the market that are made precisely to help de-stress and calm children. A fidget cube is a good one that can help kids and adults to focus for a few moments on something other than their feelings. A sensory fidget slap toy bracelet is also a good one, as it’s a tactile toy that will distract younger kids with colors and fun pictures of dinosaurs or dragons. Even giving your child some coloring books and crayons can help them to calm down and get through their upset.

Ask for help

You know your child better than anyone. If you believe that your child is struggling with his emotions, it’s never late to seek professional help. Child psychologists can observe your child and provide relevant anger management for kids strategies for you and your family, and most insurance plans cover some (if not all) of the cost.

Have fun with these anger management activities for kids!

When it comes to anger management for kids, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Every child has a different temperament, and what works for one may not work for another. The good news? There are HEAPS of great anger management activities for kids that feel more like play than work, offering a fabulous, stress-free way to help children deal with big emotions.

Here are 26 of our favorite anger management activities for kids!

1. 23 Calming Strategy Cards | Liz’s Early Learning Spot
2. Yoga for Kids | Childhood 101
3. Calm Down Kit | Mrs. Jackson’s Kinders
4. Calm Down Bins for Sensory Meltdowns | My Mundane and Miraculous Life
5. Angry Paper Toss | Kim’s Counselling Corner
6. The Angry Octopus | Stress Free Kids
7. Strategy Sandwiches | The Corner on Character
8. Anger and Coping Skills Bingo Game | One Stop Counseling Shop
9. Free Printable Anger Management Game | Home Stories A to Z (can’t use image in collage)
10. Minecraft 5 Point Scale | Jacob’s Family Blog
11. Squeezing Oranges | Fireflies and Mud Pies
12. 1-Minute Anger Management Activity | Kidlutions: Solutions for Kids
13. Angry Bird Activity | The Home Teacher
14. The Anger Games | Savvy School Counselor
15. Fidget Spinners | The Middle School Counselor
16. Scream Box Activity | Grief Speaks
17. Feelings Parking Lot | Therapeutic Interventions
18. Tearing Tissue Paper | How to Run A Home Daycare
19. Mad Dragon Game | Therapy Game HQ
20. Spin the Wheel of Coping Skills | Art of Social Work
21. Balloon Activities Expression | Creative Social Worker
22. Turtle Time | Kids Relaxation
23. Fun and Easy Relaxation Flip Book | Kim’s Counseling Corner
24. Anti-anxiety Kit for Children | Chaos and Clutter
25. Social Emotional Tab Books | One Stop Counseling Shop
26. Anger Trading Cards | One Stop Counseling Shop

Teaching our children proper anger management techniques can have a huge impact in helping them develop the self-discipline and self-regulatory behavior strategies they need to cope and learn in the classroom (and beyond). By teaching our kids how to keep control over their emotions through positive reinforcement, following through with rewards and consequences, and modelling good self-regulatory behavior, we help lay the foundation needed for long-term success with their education, career, and personal relationships.

Zones of Regulation & Emotional Regulation Printables

How can a tool like the Zones of Regulation help you support your child’s emotional regulation skills?

Today, let’s discuss the value of using visual tools like the Zones of Regulation and other printables to help kids of all ages develop emotional regulation strategies.

emotional regulation chart

If you’re a parent whose unfamiliar with The Zones, read this overview for parents.

You can find additional Zones of Regulation activities here.

The key to successfully teaching the Zones of Regulation is to spend lots of time solidifying the Zones concepts through repetition and play-based learning activities.

There are a few main components to the Zones that your child should learn sequentially to be successful. These free zones of regulation printables will help your child practice these skills.

Zones of Regulation Learning Objectives:

  1. What the four zones are and which emotions belong to each zone.

  2. How to identify which zone you are in

  3. What triggers are cause you to move out of the green zone.

  4. How to recognize what zone others are in

  5. Strategies to move back to the green zone from yellow, blue, or red

  6. Expected behavior vs unexpected behavior

  7. Size of the problem

  8. How your actions affect what zone other people are in (comfortable and uncomfortable thoughts)

Free Zones of Regulation Printable Toolbox

Here are some samples of what’s included in the free printable Zones download. Note: you can download the file at the bottom of this post.

The Four Zones:

Shows the four different zones and which emotions fall into which zone.

What The Zones Look Like

This page has some simple statements that describe what people look like when they’re in each of the four zones. The bottom has a list of coping strategies for different zones and children can color them in.

Zones Emotion Wheel

This emotion wheel is based on Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel and modified to use as a learning tool when teaching the zones of regulation. You can find some activities that incorporate this emotion wheel here.

Name One Thing…

For this activity, children fill in the blanks to name one thing that makes them feel various emotions. Once completed, ask them what zone each emotion is in, and what strategies work best.

What Zone Would You Be In If…?

This activity has several situation cards, cut them out and read the scenarios out loud and have your kids decide which Zone they’d be in if they were in that situation. You can take this a step farther and ask them if they think their zone would be expected or unexpected (if you’ve covered that part of the curriculum) .

Size of The Problem Printable

This free Zones of Regulation printable helps children to understand and identify the size of the problem. It provides some examples for each sized problem, and the colored circles on the side indicate which zone(s) someone would be in when they have each size problem.

Size of The Problem Matching Activity

Cut out the different scenario cards and sort them on the second page based on how big each problem is.

Draw a Face Activities

One version of this activity instructs children to draw a face for each of the four zones, the other version asked them to draw specific emotions for each zone – happy, angry, silly, and tired.

Download the Free Zones of Regulation Printables

You can download these printable activities for free using the button below. Note: Some of these activities are available individually on the downloads page, some are exclusive to this free printable bundle.

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Different Tools and Printable Activities

Different children have different needs.

Fortunately, there are many additional resources to help you support your child or students develop their social-emotional skills.

I’ve created an emotional regulation printable series that can be used in a number of different ways and in different environments.

At the bottom of the post, you’ll be able to download the free printables.

Included are a number of supplementary emotional regulation visual tools:

  • My Feelings Are Clues Printables

  • Right Now I Feel printableIncludes an area to draw a facial expression for the feeling

  • Today, I Felt printableIncludes morning, noon, and evening sections

  • What’s My Body Feeling? printable

For special children (ADHD, Autism, sensory processing, or any executive functioning issues), it’s a non-negotiable.We must help  them with emotional regulation tools. 

Their ability to learn through their senses and control their emotions is much more difficult. Sometimes, their ability to enjoy activities and friends may need to be strenthened through strategies and intervention.

18 Printable Activities To Help Kids Learn to Manage Their Emotions

Help kids understand and manage their emotions.

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), and luckily there are plenty of Zones of Regulation activities and games to help teach them.

Zones of Regulation, The curriculum provides strategies to support emotional regulation. Teaching students how to read their bodies’ 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 the Montana CEC.

Here are 18 engaging Zones of Regulation activities to support the emotional growth of your students.

1. Identify feelings by giving them a color

Being able to recognize emotions is important. This color wheel will help kids start to identify their emotions by associating them with different colors. Once they have a grasp on what emotions feel like, students can begin to learn strategies to deal with them. And check out some Zones of Regulation activities that incorporate this emotion wheel.

Source: He’s Extraordinary

2. Play a round of Monster Feelings Match-Up
monster feelings matching cards used for zones of regulation activities

Identifying and labeling feelings in oneself and others is a life skill that takes lots and lots of practice. One of kids’ favorite Zones of Regulation activities is Monster Feelings Match-Up. This fun game teaches kids how to identify their feelings and manage their emotions and also fosters their conversation skills.

Source: Pocket of Preschool

3. Go on an emotions scavenger hunt
an emotions scavenger hunt checklist

A super-fun activity 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

4. Make cootie catchers
Template for zones of regulation DIY cootie catcher

You know kids are going to make cootie catchers 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

5. Play the Emotions Sorting Game
action figures from movie Inside Out next to picture and word cards for zones of regulation game

Linking Zones of Regulation activities to fun experiences helps kids make connections. For example, this simple Emotions Sorting Game inspired by Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out helps kids learn and explore emotions. The game is a printable download available from the source below.

Source: Mom Endeavors

6. Make a calm-down sandwich
parts of a calm-down sandwich zones of regulation activities

When students get angry or frustrated, they can use this coping strategy to help calm themselves down. Ask them to brainstorm six things that make them happy or feel calm inside. Then, have them write down their strategies on each piece of a calm-down sandwich.

Source: Corner on Character

7. Play Behavior Bingo
picture of Behavior Bingo game card and game pieces

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

8. Practice impulse control with this version of Candy Land
one of the zones of regulation activities called candy land impulse control

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 Candy Land and help kids learn impulse-control skills. Best for grades K–3.

Source: Ashley Hughes

9. Make emotion regulation spinners
self regulation tools including a

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.

Source: WholeHearted School Counseling

10. Play a round of What Zone Would I Be In if …?
template for a zones of regulation activities

This free activity includes 30 cards with hypothetical situations, plus a page for sorting the cards into the zones. Read the cards and let students decide which zone THEY feel they would be in if this happened to them. You can ask questions about why they feel that way to encourage discussion.

Source: He’s Extraordinary

11. Teach the Zones of Regulation with this fun song

This catchy tune, set to the tune of “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” teaches kids all about the different emotions in the Zones of Regulation and strategies to deal with them.

Source: Singalong Songs

12. Create a sensory-break center in your classroom
classroom bulletin board with information on it to help students regulate their emotions

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

13. Stock your sensory-break center with strategy cards
zones of regulation activities 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 four cards for each of the four zones.

Source: Social CJ

14. Empower students with these contingency maps
contingency maps to help students regulate their emotions

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

15. Role-play with task cards
self control task card for students

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

16. Build emotional toolboxes
(My Favorite)
poster for zones toolbox product for teachers

What can students do to regulate their emotions when they veer away from the green zone? This toolbox of activities includes a handy flip-book that’s 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

17. Encourage self-regulation with these desk nameplates
Zones of Regulation activities including name plates, bookmarks and more

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

18. Don't Forget to Share resources with extended familiesand caretakers


Zones of Regulation & Emotional Regulation Printables

Fortunately, we live in a day and age that is learning to prioritize the emotional well-being of our children.

By providing children and families with emotional regulation support, we’re able to change the narrative for so many. Again, we have different choices in the types of tools we use.

Don’t forget to sign up for your free downloadable visuals and enjoy them with:

  • your own children and family,

  • younger students in preschool,

  • small groups in the church,

  • special education environments,

  • tweens and teens

Remember the goal is to support the development of healthy emotional regulation skills for all. Be flexible and work with your child or students to grow together.

Yes! I want to FREE Printables!

29 Best Sensory Toys for Autism, ADHD, & Anxiety (2022)

47 Emotional Regulation Activities for Kids Every Mom Needs!

How to Stop Your Child’s Hitting: Use Real Discipline

What is Autism Masking & Is It Hurting Your Child?

11 Best Feelings Picture Books for Kids (Every Family Needs)


Supporting Regulation in Behavior at Home

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Activities & Tips

120 Emotional Self-Regulation Ideas for Kids

What’s inside this article: A look at different forms of emotional regulation, how to choose strategies that are effective for your child(ren), and a list of 120 emotional regulation ideas to inspire you to find effective techniques.

Emotional dysregulation means that an emotional response does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses.

In other words, your kid is literally losing their S*&# because you gave them the wrong color socks today.

Emotional Self-Regulation and Dysregulation

When our kids are not well regulated, they start to “act out”, and you see “behaviors”. Basically, they just don’t have the skills to manage or express their emotions on their own.

Actually, there’s a good chance that they don’t even know what the emotion they’re feeling is.  You can’t cope with something that you can’t even label or understand.

But good news! You can teach emotional self-regulation skills. This post contains a ton of strategies to do just that.

Types of Emotional Regulation

There are actually two types of emotional regulation. These are mutual regulation (sometimes called co-regulation) and self-regulation.

Mutual Regulation

Mutual regulation (or co-regulation) means your child needs YOU to help them regulate their emotions. When they’re upset you need to soothe them, help them calm down. They can not use healthy coping strategies on their own.

Most kids with autism are dependant upon mutual regulation some, if not all, the time. Does your child come to you when they need help regulating? Or, do you need to recognize behavioral cues and be proactive?


Self-regulation means your child can calm down and cope with their emotions all on their own. They can walk away from a frustrating situation. They can take deep breaths to calm down and return to an activity.

Your child may even recover from a meltdown on their own.

There’s a developmental trajectory of milestones your child will meet as their self-regulation skills develop.

First will be mutual regulation, with you responding to their cues. Next, they’ll initiate the mutual regulation. Then, some self-regulation skills emerge with you modeling the right strategies.

Over time as skills develop your child will start being able to recover from meltdowns sooner, and they will be less intense.

Choosing Emotional Regulation Strategies that Work for You

First, figure out where your child currently sits on the developmental trajectory of emotional self-regulation skills.

You need to know this when you’re picking what strategies are going to work best for you.

There are actually three things you need to consider when you’re deciding which emotional regulation strategies to teach and use.

1. Developmentally Appropriate

First of all, choose strategies that are appropriate for your child’s current level of ability. All kids are unique with their own strengths and weaknesses and unique emotional regulation needs.

2. Functional

You need to choose strategies that are functional. What I mean by this is – your kid needs to be able to use them when they need them during their regular day-to-day routine.

Where does your child spend most of their time? Home, school, the playground? When choosing coping strategies think – will they be able to practice those strategies in these environments when they need to?

3. Align with Family Values

This one is more so for care providers and educators. If you’re teaching or caring for a child with autism or ADHD, you need to make sure that any strategies you teach that child are consistent with the family’s priorities and values.

Parents and educators must work as a team at all times to provide consistency. Having constant communication and an open line to sharing information is the key to success.

Special Contexts

These are just a few other things to think about as you choose emotional regulation strategies that will encourage healthy coping skills for your child.

These are in no particular order but are here to make you think about how your child’s emotional regulation is affected by different scenarios. How is your child affected by the following:

  • Group sizes? Large or small

  • New environment vs familiar environment?

  • Familiar caregiver vs unfamiliar caregiver?

  • When feeling sick or tired?

  • When feeling hungry?

  • Can they transition well? Think – how would your child react if they were engaged in a fun activity and suddenly had to stop to sit in their chair for a snack?

Keeping in mind how these different contexts can affect your child, you may choose different strategies and supports, depending on the situation.

Emotional Self-Regulation Strategies

Mutual Regulation Strategies

  1. Play mindfulness games (check out these activity cards)

  2. Model calm behavior

  3. Model the self-regulation strategies you want to teach

  4. Set up opportunities for success

  5. Use more positive reinforcement

  6. Have a consistent daily routine

  7. Have a bedtime routine

  8. Offer a break

  9. Offer choices

  10. Have a break box available

  11. Remove triggers

  12. Have a visual schedule

  13. Offer a snack

  14. Offer a drink

  15. Do a movement break – see: 15 fun workouts for kids

  16. Read a story

  17. Give a hug

  18. Match their language

  19. Get on their level, see the situation from their shoes

  20. Use these sensory diet cards together

  21. Use a timer

  22. Try using a first-then statement

  23. Give a compliment

  24. Hold their hand

  25. Offer a sensory item like a weighted lap pad, or a resistance tunnel

  26. Diffuse calming essential oils

  27. Just ask “What would help you right now?”

  28. Talk about something they like

  29. Take them for a walk

  30. Offer solutions

  31. Remove the audience

  32. Visualization – Close your eyes and imagine your favorite place

  33. Ask them to draw you a picture

  34. Have a reward system for positive behavior

  35. Squish them – get your child to lay on the floor and squish them by rolling an exercise ball over them

  36. Use a massager

  37. Use a therapy brush

  38. Talk about feelings and size of the problem

  39. Use the feelings check-in sheet

  40. Say “It makes sense that you feel _____________”

  41. Say, in a calm voice, “You are safe right now”

  42. Create some sensory bins

  43. Get them to blow pom-poms around the table or through a maze with a straw

  44. Create a social story

  45. Talk about upcoming transitions ahead of time

  46. Rock them calmly

  47. Wrap them in a weighted blanket

  48. Turn on the music and have an impromptu dance party

  49. Ask them to help you with something they’re good at

  50. Offer to do the task together

  51. Stop talking or making demands

  52. Use physical reinforcers like stickers or candy

  53. Take a Time-In in a calm down corner

  54. Use these fun brain break cards (free printable)

Self-Regulation Strategies

  1. Take deep breaths

  2. Think of something that makes you laugh

  3. Go for a walk

  4. Slowly count backward from 10

  5. Squeeze a stress ball as hard as you can (Read: Do stress balls actually work?)

  6. Swing on the swings

  7. Draw a picture of something that makes you happy

  8. Write a letter

  9. Listen to music

  10. Play with play-doh

  11. Talk to a grown-up

  12. Talk to a friend

  13. Color a picture

  14. Use positive affirmations

  15. Make a list of things that you love

  16. Close your eyes and think about your favorite place

  17. Read a book

  18. Rip up paper

  19. Scream into a pillow

  20. Do some yoga

  21. Ask for a hug

  22. Hug your favorite stuffed animal

  23. Spend time with a pet

  24. Watch funny videos

  25. Identify your emotions

  26. Write your feelings down

  27. Tell someone how you’re feeling

  28. Ask for help

  29. Hang upside down

  30. Chew a piece of gum

  31. Build with Lego

  32. Bounce on a therapy ball

  33. Do 10 jumping jacks

  34. Snuggle with your favorite blanket

  35. Blow bubbles

  36. Make funny faces in the mirror

  37. Pop bubble wrap

  38. Sing your favorite song

  39. Dance

  40. Look through a photo album

  41. Make jewelry with beads and pipe cleaner

  42. Watch a calm down bottle

  43. Watch a lava lamp

  44. Doodle

  45. Use a fidget toy

  46. Go outside

  47. Turn off the lights and look at something that glows in the dark

  48. Get some sleep

  49. Have a healthy snack

  50. Daydream about the perfect day

  51. Help someone else

  52. Watch the clouds

  53. Jump on a trampoline

  54. Play with a hula hoop

  55. Write a love letter to yourself

  56. Punch your pillow

  57. Play with a Rubik’s cube

  58. Keep a comforting object with you

  59. Use a scratch art doodle pad

  60. Shake up a snow globe and watch it settle

  61. Look through a kaleidoscope

  62. Draw with an etch-a-sketch

  63. Look at photos of family

  64. Write in a positivity journal

  65. Watch your favorite movie

  66. Do a sticker-by-number art

  67. Rub your thumb on a chakra worry stone

Self-control​ activities for kids: Easy ways to teach children how to control their emotions and behaviors


Self-control​ activities for kids: Easy ways to teach children how to control their emotions and behaviors

Coping skills for kids

Positive Parenting

Calm down corner ideas and tips

Many programs, curriculum or interventions are created by occupational therapy professionals e.g., Zones of RegulationThe Alert ProgramTest DriveThe Sensory Connection, and a new program called, The Regulation Rocket.

It’s also important to remember that emotional, cognitive, or physical regulation signs of sensory dysregulation or functional regulation can be different and change over time. Likewise, the coping skills that support regulation develop over time.

One of the key pieces to the a self regulation tool is the point that there is no one “right” level to be in. It’s OK to have emotions of all levels and behaviors that match…to a point (getting so angry that one breaks things or is destructive to property is not ok. Being so upset and frustrated that one is mean and hurtful to a friend is not ok).

We all have fluctuations of moods and behaviors. The part that is important for us as advocates for children is to offer strategies to help kids understand and identify their feelings and emotions. It’s important for kids to understand how their reactions impact others, particularly when they are not able to manage their emotional or behavioral response.

In this self-regulation craft and activity, we used a lion and a lamb concept to bring the abstract meaning of regulation to a concrete place of learning and exploration, by helping kids to see that self regulation strategies can make a huge difference in paying attention and learning in the classroom or completing tasks that need to be done at home. 

As support for those struggling with self-regulation challenges, modeling is the strongest tool that we have as adults/parents/therapists to teach kids/teens/others how to cope.

Other self-regulation strategies can be anything that helps the individual feel centered, focused, and able to participate in everyday tasks. Some of these strategies can include:

  • Create something

  • Journal

  • Playing with emotions playdough mats

  • Ask for help

  • Talking to a friend

  • Blow bubbles

  • Color, paint, draw

  • Listen to music

  • Dance

  • Play a favorite game

  • Make & play with slime

  • Play with fidget tools

  • Learn about something new

  • List things you are thankful for

  • Watch a movie

  • Go for a walk

  • Jump on a trampoline

  • Play outside

  • Run

  • Journal

  • Stretch

  • Exercise

  • Use kind & compassionate self-talk

  • Deep breathing

  • Do a puzzle

  • Heavy work

  • Clean

  • Take a nap

  • Practice mindfulness

  • Say positive affirmations

  • Look at old pictures

  • Practice yoga

  • Drink a warm cup of tea

  • Cuddle or play with your pet

  • Drink water from a sports bottle

  • Bounce a ball

  • Tell a joke

  • Cook or bake

  • Take a shower or bath

  • Plant or water flowers

  • Read a book

  • Make a craft

  • Drink a smoothie

  • Suck on hard candies

  • Chew gum or fruit leather

  • Blow a whistle or hum

  • Crunch popcorn

  • Rock in a rocking chair

  • Sit in a bean bag chair

  • Lawn work

  • Household chores

  • Lift weights

  • Ride a bike

  • Dance

  • Shake your arms or legs

  • Twist your hair

  • Tap foot on the ground

  • Take a cool shower or a warm bath

  • Fiddle with paper clips

  • Play with fidget tools

  • Make a DIY Fidget tool

  • Look at a sensory bottle

  • Watch a fish tank

  • Dim the lights

  • Declutter your space

  • Watch a sunset

The resources in the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook really go into detail on this concept, in using movement and sensory tools as regulation strategies and coping tools to help kids function, within their daily functional tasks. For example, it is possible to incorporate regulating activities within the classroom, home tasks like self-care or chores, and the community. Check out the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook for more information on this concept.