Freeplay playspace Theraputic Environment Play Space Play at home


What They Really Are and Why They Matter

Establishing a ‘yes space’ provides you and your child with a sense of freedom and independence. Watch as they as they play uninterrupted and get lost in their own imaginary worlds, without constantly needing to test boundaries or worry that they’ll be interrupted by another “no”.

The added bonus of a ‘yes space’ is that you will have time to yourself while knowing that they are safe, engaged and entertained. My sister would laugh at this article and say that "This idea has been used for centuries, it was called a playpen.  Another old label." It is something that they now say is a developmentally wise to use them,

I loved floortime on a king sized quilt. It's cool because the baby can enjoy you being on eye level when you play with your baby. Plus there is no lifting to put them in a crib. 

A YES space is a gift to both children and their parents. It offers children ownership of a safe place that encourages play, learning, creativity, agency, and a strong sense of self. Parents get to enjoy one the great pleasures of parenting – observing their infant or toddler as they explore and master the world around them.

Creating “yes spaces” for your family allows everyone to feel more relaxed. Your children are free to touch, explore, move, climb, and look after their own needs, and you feel more at ease knowing they are unlikely to do serious damage to anything – including themselves. What these spaces will look like will depend on your home and your family.

A ‘yes space’ is an area of your home or yard that you set up to be completely child proof and child friendly. 

It needs to be designed with their safety and developmental needs in mind so that you feel totally comfortable letting them play there independently while you make dinner, look at a magazine etc. while being close to the yes space.

I really think this whole idea is the best thing from field of psychology in our modern age.

The Benefits of a Yes Space

Establishing a ‘yes space’ provides you and your child with a sense of freedom and independence. Watch as they as they play uninterrupted and get lost in their own imaginary worlds, without constantly needing to test boundaries or worry that they’ll be interrupted by another “no”.

The added bonus of a ‘yes space’ is that you will have time to yourself while knowing that they are safe, engaged and entertained.

"Yes Space" doubles as a great theraputic setting for theraputic music-listening, learning self regulation, handling big emotions, and home based speech and occupational therapy.  

A Safe Toddler Play Area Promotes Development

First things first, having a safe baby play area promotes cognitive development of skills that we want people to have. A yes space fosters independent play, which lets kids learn to value alone time (so necessary, you guys) and promotes problem-solving skills.

A big thing in RIE Parenting is letting kids develop motor skills naturally, something that I feel pretty strongly about. Creating a safe baby play area gives babies the chance to freely learn, explore, and develop skills naturally at their own pace.

Increased Quality of Quality Time

A yes space improves quality time for parents and kids in two ways.

First, when you are in the yes space with your child, you can relax and observe play without having to babysit or police anything. You can also be more intentional about the quality time that you are spending by giving your complete and undivided attention.

rsliddell 9

Yes Space = Less Accidents

Kids of all ages tend to be accident-prone. I mean, they are quite literally learning how the world works.

The fact that a yes space is completely baby-proofed means less physical accidents. To ensure your yes space is a safe space, you could consider:

  • Getting on your child’s level – this might mean lying on the floor or getting down on your hands and knees – and really looking around. What can you see?

  • It’s amazing the stuff we can miss as adults. Ask yourself, what would be appealing if you were an infant who was just beginning to walk or crawl, or a child who was interested in how things work and wanting to touch everything?

Inside your home one room or even just a play-pack that is perfectly safe all the time can be a huge relief if you need to go to the loo or jump in the shower, and enables you to relax whilst your child plays without having to be on the lookout for them eating cat food or licking shoes. Some families keep certain rooms like the kitchen gated, or use a stair gate. If you start with one space. then let it grow as the baby grows, then you can look at more later.

  • Ensuring your young child has ample opportunities to practice gross motor activities such as climbing in an appropriate way – or you may find them scaling the fences to get what they need. This could be as simple as creating playful mountains to climb over, or obstacle courses with chairs and tables.

  • Teaching rather than hiding away or saying no. Although some things are always potentially dangerous – cleaning products for example – many, many more are a grey area. Consider which things you could patiently teach your child about! Crockery and cutlery are a good example of this, but it can also apply to things like allowing your child to learn to safely climb onto a chair rather than telling them no, keeping stairs un-gated, or showing your young child how to gently handle and water a pot plant rather than moving it onto a high shelf.

  • Observing and Reassessing often. This goes both ways – there may be some things which were safe which now could potentially be dangerous because your child can reach them or climb, but there may also be things which were potentially dangerous which are now safer as your child is old enough to start learning to use them carefully.

If you have children at different developmental stages, ie. a child who is enjoying playing with Lego, beads, or other loose parts alongside a baby or toddler who is still exploring everything by putting it in their mouth, strict boundaries around where the toys with small parts will live are necessary. Large trays with a thick rim are great for letting older children play with smaller objects as they can be moved onto a table or higher surface when their siblings are around. If your older children have their own rooms, consider keeping these toys in there – and keeping little ones out.

More Yes, Less No

How hard is to be on alert CONSTANTLY? How annoying is it to have to constantly say, “No” or find a positive way to phrase directions? I imagine it’s even more annoying to be told no all the time, too! Here’s some good info from Dan Siegel about what hearing “yes” does for your child’s brain.

When you’re spending quality time in the safe baby play area, you can literally just relax! I love the Magda Gerber quote, “Observe more, do less… then enjoy.”

Being outside is a different sensation for body and mind than being indoors. When outside children will feel the air or sun on their skin, and hear birds or sounds of the city. But what’s most important is that their mind and body are experiencing all these sensations at once for the benefits of full sensory integration ( or optimal learning).

Another benefit to outdoor time is that nature rarely overwhelms the senses. Children may have difficulty understanding all that is happening and become anxious, frustrated, or upset when overwhelmed with too much sensory input. Examples of overwhelming environments might be a noisy play center, a busy colorful classroom, or a loud and crowded restaurant.

baby sitting on a sandy beach with a bucket and shovel in hand

“Nature doesn’t bombard children with too much sensory information at once, which creates a sense of chaos and confusion.” Instead nature is a “perfectly balanced sensory experience” providing just the right amount of stimulation and opportunities for babies and children to learn and grow. (Angela Hanscom, 2016)

”Nature is a ‘perfectly balanced sensory experience’ for babies and children ~ Angela Hanscomb” thats what makes it perfect for Yes Space/

How To Create A Yes Space Outside

To establish a safe ‘yes space’ you need a fenced in yard or enclosed patio. If you don’t want your entire yard or patio to be taken over by your child, you can certainly gate off a certain area. This allows you to still have a garden or little oasis of your own.

To establish a ‘yes space’ outside, start by putting all the adult tools away in a safe location that can’t be accessed by your child. You’ll also need to do a quick sweep of the yard each day to ensure that nothing unsafe is lying around, like a nail.

Once you’re ready, establish a couple of basic safety and behavior guidelines, the fewer the better. ‘Be kind’ and ‘be safe’ should be enough, although you may need remind your child not to hurt any plants, bugs, etc.

Katijah Edris outside

Just like inside, you’ll want to include opportunities for open ended play, creativity and physical exertion. You might include a swing, a scooter, and some large blocks.

You may also want to include a water source (when it’s not too cold) and some dirt or sand for your child to dig in, as this is a wonderful sensory opportunity that isn’t generally possible indoors. A mud kitchen or sensory bin is perfect for outdoor play.

A Yes Space Lowers Stress Levels

As you can probably guess, many of the above benefits combine to lower stress levels and frustration for parents AND kids. We all know how bad stress is for our bodies and health, so reducing stress can naturally only have good benefits from everyone involved!
Everyone benefits from enjoying time together again.

How Montessori Can Be Applied at Home – Niche Blog

Assess And Tweak

Once you’ve set up your child’s space, try to reassess and tweak every so often. If you notice there’s an area where you’re still needing to redirect your child, try to change the environment to eliminate the conflict.

For instance, if your child is always unplugging and plugging in a lamp, try to rearrange the room so that spot is blocked.

If they’re climbing a bookshelf, try removing it and using a book basket for a while. Your child’s needs and impulses will change over time so the space will change too.

While it takes a bit of work at beginning, a ‘yes space’ is a true gift for you and your child as it will be the one place you can simply be together without constant boundary testing and redirection.


  • Montessori Educator Christina Clemer shares simple tips for creating a Montessori-friendly set up at home for your toddler

  • When children engage in open ended play, they’re encouraged to use their imaginations, creativity and problem solving skills, which is crucial for their cognitive and physical development. But what exactly is open-ended play and how can you facilitate it? See our guide to open ended play.


Here are some practical and inspiring examples parents have shared with me, along with a few of my own…

Yes Space on the Patio
Or if You Don't Have a Yard

We used the same wooden kiddy corral for all three of our children as babies. I shifted it during the day to keep it mostly shaded. We had a table and chairs next to it where I spent many blissful hours watching my daughter play from the time she was three months to one year old.

charlotte playpen

Here’s how we used the corral over the years in a larger outdoor space with our two other babies. The kiddy corral had stakes that you could sink into the ground to hold it steady, and we sometimes used umbrellas to keep it shaded. There’s a tarp underneath the blankets.


Our children later spent the majority of their outdoor play time in a large sandbox built by my husband (details in Back to the Sandbox.) Here’s my daughter (on the right) with friends…

sandbox playgroup

Here’s the sunflower house, which is actually in the front yard so I don’t? have to worry about them running over the plants. There’s a lovely book called Sunflower House by Eve Bunting that the kids adore, especially when their house is in bloom. We’ll replant thicker and earlier in the season this year.


My son was crawling last summer and I wanted him to be able to get in the sandpit on his own, so we bought a ramp. They still use it, often just running up and down it and using it to wheel their wheelbarrows into the pit.

rsliddell 3

We had this set up about this time last year. It was off the door to the back yard. My son was 11 months and my daughter was almost 2 1/2. It was great having this space to allow them to go outside without having to watch them the entire time.

rebecc sl

Rebecca S L

The bridge gets tons of use. My son spent a few minutes trying to get his wagon ‘unstuck.’ He used to crawl over it, now jumps off the end, pulls his wagon over it, pushed his wheelbarrow and rides his bike over it. My daughter does the same.


The best, MUST outdoor item in our household for winter (it’s winter here at the moment) are Muddlarks!!! Waterproof clothing so we can get out and play in the rain, puddles and mud no matter the weather.

rsliddell 9

All the grass, which is mostly weeds, dies off in summer but now, in winter, it changes the feel. The kiddos weren’t that interested in the dry creek bed in summer but love it now in winter.

rsl 10

How to Set up a Safe Play Space

The most important feature of a play space for your baby is that it is completely safe. Magda Gerber, infant expert and the founder of RIE®, used to say that the space “should be so completely safe-proofed that if you were locked out of the house for hours, you would feel confident that your child would not be in danger (though this is not recommended)” (Your Self-Confident Baby, 87).

For those of us that live in small homes, this safe space can be as simple as her crib when your baby is tiny. As she grows, a play yard or playpen works beautifully. As she starts to roll, creep, or crawl, she will need more space, like a gated off section of one room.

Once your space is secure, consider it from your baby’s perspective. Is it clear of clutter? Is it interesting to look at? Is there space to move and explore? What kinds of objects are there to engage with? And are those objects at her level?

A core recommendation of Magda’s was to create conditions that encourage safe, uninterrupted, self-directed play.

Magda taught us that the ideal place for uninterrupted free play to happen was a 100% safe, enclosed play area, and the ultimate was for it to be outdoors.

There is no environment more engaging and therapeutic for babies than nature.

And of course, the toys you select should be age-appropriate. Tiny objects that can be choked on or toys that would be baffling or simply uninteresting to your child at her age should be saved for later.

One of my Favorite Links for Backyard Play Space

18 free things to add to a backyard play space

Indoor Yes Spaces

Lily & River Little Surfer

Do you ever have days where you feel like you’re constantly saying “no” to your child?

It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes it can feel more like we’re referees or police officers constantly enforcing the rules than parents.

This is especially true for toddlers who are wired to test the boundaries of both safety and acceptable behavior. It’s their way of figuring out the world that’s both totally understandable and totally exhausting.

Enter, the ‘yes space’.

A ‘yes space’ is an area of your home that you set up to be completely child proof and child friendly.

The goal is to intervene as little as possible when your child is in this space. It needs to be designed with their safety and developmental needs in mind so that you feel totally comfortable letting them play there unattended while you make dinner.

Create a unique nature-inspired early learning area! This Nature View Room Divider set provides stable and scenic toddler protection, as well as ample storage space. Pieces feature solid and sturdy wood construction with safe, clear acrylic panels imprinted with a peaceful scene of wildflowers. Perfect for dividing indoor space into separate activity areas in classrooms, daycares, and playrooms. <br><br><ul OLDSTYLE=color:black><LI>NATURE INSPIRED: The inviting nature scene imprinted on the acry

Play is an integral part of the early years. But children cannot play freely and independently if they are constantly being hovered over!

If you’ve ever found yourself repeatedly shouting, ‘no, don’t do that!’ millions of times a day, this post is for you.

So what exactly is a ‘yes’ space anyway? Well, as you’ve probably already guessed, it’s a space where your children are free to play without being reprimanded or cautioned constantly. A place for them to unwind and cut loose, with interesting and age appropriate toys and activities.

Here’s what you need to consider:


Consider the needs and developmental stage of your youngest child. If you have any children under the age of 3, ensure that any choking hazards are removed from the room. You might have the best intentions in the world to keep small items out of reach, on a top shelf but it is safer all-round if anything dangerous if kept firmly away from the youngest members in the house.

Instead, try a special ‘quiet time’ box for older children, so that they can play uninhibited with small items whilst their younger sibling naps.


Contrary to what toy adverts would have us believe, kids don’t deal well with too much. It is overwhelming and quite honestly, the reason why children will ‘dump and run.’ It has been proven time and time again that children play better when they have fewer items out.

The key is to include plenty of open-ended items so your children can play in a variety of ways without getting bored.

Check out the 5 steps to play space organization article here.


Furniture needs to be secured to the walls to avoid the risk of it falling on your child. Just like you would in a baby’s room, avoid placing furniture near windows. Check cords on blinds and replace/ put out of reach in order to avoid strangulation.


To truly avoid the temptation of climbing, make sure all items are at eye-level. Your little learners will become much more independent if they are not having to constantly ask you for help reaching items, too.

Not only is it safer, but more appealing for your children too. Think for a second about the way supermarket shelves are stocked. Big brands pay a premium for their stock to be placed at eye-level, whilst low-budget brands are out of sight. Your child is much more likely to play with an item that is directly in their eyeline.

You can read more about our favourite play space furniture here.


Sure, an art space is really nice to have but if you can’t trust your child to create without smearing paint on the carpet and drawing on the walls, you need to remove them from temptation.

Our current solution is the IKEA Raskog trolley. My 4 year-old daughter is perfectly capable of wheeling the trolley from the utility to the table all by herself, but I also avoid the problem of my 2 year old son redecorating without my knowledge!


Following play schemas is a huge part of my own parenting and education methods. Put simply, it’s about looking at repeated patterns of behaviour, then providing toys and materials that will help extend that curiosity.

As one example, if your toddler suddenly starts throwing everything in sight, they are likely exploring the trajectory schema. They aren’t being ‘naughty’ – simply seeing what happens.

Instead of constantly shouting, ‘no, stop throwing!’ remove any items that could get damaged or cause injury (wooden blocks, for example) and replace with balls and soft toys.

The Benefits of a Yes Space

Establishing a ‘yes space’ provides you and your child with a sense of freedom and independence. Watch as they as they play uninterrupted and get lost in their own imaginary worlds, without constantly needing to test boundaries or worry that they’ll be interrupted by another “no”.

The added bonus of a ‘yes space’ is that you will have time to yourself while knowing that they are safe, engaged and entertained.

How To Create A Yes Space Inside

The layout of a ‘yes space’ will be different depending on your home and family structure. A natural spot for such a space would be a playroom or child’s bedroom.

If you have a smaller home, you can still make it work.

Just look around the house for an area that your child can call their own. This could be a living room corner or even a large hallway you could gate off for your child to play in. It doesn’t need to be fancy. The most important thing is that it needs to be child-driven in design.

Once you’ve chosen a space, look around and assess its current state. Can your child access anything that’s unsafe if they’re on their own? Are there any items you’d normally have to redirect your child away from — a bookcase they can climb, electrical cords, a toy they like to throw at the wall instead of using properly? If so, take these items away if possible or in the case of a bookshelf, make sure it’s fastened to the wall. We love the Nico & Yeye Minimo bookcase that features a wide-set seat that is deep enough for even the biggest books and toys.

Next, assess the room for your child’s interests and developmental needs. You’ll likely want to include some open ended toys like blocks, some sort of creative outlet like musical instruments or craft supplies, if they’re old enough. Some sort of physical movement opportunity is also ideal.

If your child has a lot of energy and no outlet for it, they will find a way to release it which will probably involve running around the house and jumping off furniture. You might include a climberindoor slidebalance beam or a balance board. Just make sure you have some sort of gross motor outlet to set your child up for success! A play table and chair or stool is also handy if you have the space available but prioritize what you need depending on your child’s interests.

Yes Forts

Summertime is perfect for fort building. Elaborate or simple, kids love a great secret hideaway. Here are 25 DIY forts for inspiration. 25 DIY Forts to Build With Your Kids This Summer -, #fort, #DIY, #treehouse, #playhouse

Here’s a clever and unique idea for creating a fort for the kids – try roller shades on your table! It’s perfect for play time, and rolls out of the way and out of sight when eating or entertaining. You can use this idea indoors or outdoors, all you need are shades, permanent markers and a table tall enough!


Summertime is perfect for fort building. Elaborate or simple, kids love a great secret hideaway. Here are 25 DIY forts for inspiration. 25 DIY Forts to Build With Your Kids This Summer -, #fort, #DIY, #treehouse, #playhouse

This super cute foolproof fort uses a wooden A-frame and curtain panels to create the shape of a tent. It’s highly portable though, as the curtains are situated on a wooden stick and velcro-d on the bottom. This is a great play tent for a little person, and can be moved inside or out on whim.

Easy Outdoor forts



Joyful and Safe Play Area for Your Baby 

How To Create YES Space - Joyful and Safe Play Area for Your Baby or Toddler - feature image

Do you want to stop saying “NO” to your child(ren)? Have you thought how easy your life will be if you could just have like 10 minutes without sitting right next to your baby or toddler? Well if the answer is “YES” then this blog is for you. Here you will find my tips on how to make your life easier and your baby or toddler happier by creating a “YES space” – safe and joyful play area that your child will love.

Creating “YES space” for your baby or toddle will benefit you both. You will become calmer and have more time for yourself and your tasks. Also, the safe space will help and allow your child to:

  • move freely, which will help him to understand and explore the world by touching, smelling, listening, and seeing;

  • develop independence and independent playing abilities;

  • make own chooses what and how to do it;

  • has pure experience without interruptions;

  • follow his inner senses for physical development.


It is easy to create a safe play area for your child, and it can be even cheap. First, you need to decide where you will create a baby or toddle place. You can choose any room in the house. If your child has an own room you can prepare the space in it. Please have in mind that you can’t leave your baby or toddler alone without any supervision.

If you don’t have enough space in the house or you can’t invest in a baby monitor or a camera to keep an eye to the child(ren), make the safe play space in the room that you spend most of your time. That way, while you are doing your tasks you can still have a look at the baby or the toddler, who is playing in his/her “YES space”

For my child’s “YES space”, I chose the living room. Our home has a bedroom and a living room, which is together with the kitchen box. As a staying home mom who loves home-prepared food I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. There wasn’t free available space in the living room so we decided to remove the sofa and use that corner for the child’s play space.


Once you have chosen the place the fun begins. You need to prepare the room and make it safe by taking care of everything that can be harmful to your child(ren).

First, you should think about how big will be the “YES space”, the whole room, or a part of it. You may need to buy a baby gate either for the door of the room or to use one as a play space gate. If there are stairs in the room don’t forget to baby proof them.

In case you want to let your baby move freely between the rooms choose an appropriated baby proof decision for the stairs and doors. There are different types of door stoppers that prevent injuries with the fingers for example.

To make your play space safe, you should:

  • take care of the electrical outlets – you can either cover it with outlet plugs or hide them behind any furniture;

  • take care of the cords – use a cord covers to prevent chewing on them or pulling them out;

  • secure the furniture to the wall – have in mind that children are climbing that’s why I recommend securing all possible furniture. At some point, your child will start moving all around not only in the safe space.

  • lock all the cabinets that your child is not allowed to check – we have an aquarium in our living room which cabinet we decided to lock;

  • use child-sized furniture – this will help the child to feel safe;

  • secure or remove everything that is hanging – take care of the curtains and blinds and their cords;

  • secure the hanging pictures and mirrors – choose an acrylic mirror for the area;

  • remove all unnecessary items – decorations, souvenirs, etc.;

  • make sure there isn’t anything small! – babies and toddler discover the world through their senses which include taste so they put almost everything in their mouth;

  • remove any plants – they may be hazardous and it is sure that the child will try how they taste;

  • make sure the toys in the safe space are appropriate for individual play and in a good and safe condition.

Make sure that the space is safe for your baby or toddler. Try to get their view. Lay on the floor and look around. You may notice something that you missed to baby proof.


The “YES space” should be clean and comfortable. I recommend you to make the play space no shoe area in order to keep it clean. Make sure to clean the space oft enough so there isn’t too much dust. The cleaning products that you use should be child-friendly.

I think that carpets are not a good decision for the floor of the play space. Not all carpets are hypoallergenic. For the floor, you can use soft puzzles they are easy to clean and keep warm.

The best light for the play space is the natural one. Make sure the place is bright enough with good temperature and a good climate. You don’t want your child to get sick because of the inner house flows while the windows are open.

Keep in mind that you will have to make some changes in the “YES space” according to your child’s  developing new interests and needs as they grow. At some points you will get some large materials or furniture and others will be removed. The important is to keep the area interesting and comfortable for your child(ren).


Super Yes Space The Listening Program Auditory Processing Sensory

The Listening Program®: A Trusted Approach for Autism Treatment


The Listening Program: A Trusted Approach for Autism Treatment

Music does profound things to your brain, in a good way! The brain is musical; neuroscience has established through functional brain imaging that virtually our whole brain is involved when we listen to music.

Our vision at Advanced Brain Technologies is to transform the lives of children and adults on the autism spectrum, and those who care for them, with music that can reboot the brain to be able to function better and in turn better support the body and its systems.

To fulfill our vision, we start with the scientific evidence that the brain has a natural ability to physically change itself and strengthen its neural networks in response to a person’s experiences. This is called neuroplasticity, and it occurs not just in childhood but throughout an individual’s lifetime.

Neuroscience-Based Music Listening Therapy
Parents face a daunting array of treatment options to help their children attain their fullest potential. Each child is unique. As such, their autism intervention should be holistic and adapted to meet their individual needs and goals.

The Listening Program is a neuroscience-based music listening therapy. It uses a developmental model to promote lasting change and it’s backed by peer-reviewed research demonstrating exciting outcomes for children and adults with autism. Typical improvements include language development, sensory processing skills, fine and gross motor coordination, memory and thinking skills, emotional wellness and more.

We believe in maintaining the beauty of the art of music while giving it a specific use: to improve your emotional, mental, and physical performance. The foundation of The Listening Program is its scientifically designed music performed by Advanced Brain Technologies’ own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble.

Your brain is better on music. The beautiful therapeutic music contains more depth, detail, and dimension and provides more emotional impact than music created using other recording methods for enhanced emotional and physiological resilience to respond to life’s challenges.

TLP is more than music. ABT’s high standards for evidence-based music and innovative approach toward neuroacoustic modifications require headphone delivery. With the outer ear acting as a funnel for sound conducted through air conduction, the headphones provide an intimate connection with that funnel, thereby conducting the sound more directly and completely from the onset.

This direct connection is important because it optimizes the delivery and reception of the frequencies, volume dynamics and left/right characteristics of the sound so that the stimulation is as close as possible to a true representation of what was intended when the music was created.

ABT created a multi-sensory bone conduction audio system called Waves™, which provides a multi-sensory experience of sound vibration stimulation through both air and bone conduction, the two ways in which we tune into sound.

  • Air conduction is sound collected by your outer ear and moves through your ears into your inner ear.

  • Bone conducted sound is the sound derived from vibration that is received by the physical matter of your head/body and is conducted through that physical matter of your head/body to ultimately influence the inner ear.

When you or your loved one listens to The Listening Program through the Waves multi-sensory audio system, a transducer or vibrator on the headband provides enhanced bone conducted sound stimulation while the earpieces of the headphone enhance air conducted sound. The net effect is an optimally balanced listening experience.

The Listening Program has numerous neuroacoustic modifications that use the natural elements of sound delivered through headphones. The purpose is to enhance our perception of musical complexity, tone density, spatial training, frequency focus and volume dynamics. The listener will move gradually through a sequence of training intensity to provide a balance of stimulation and grounding support.

Develop a Healthy Relationship with Sound

One of the most reported challenges for people with autism spectrum disorders is hypersensitivity to sound.1

Auditory hypersensitivity involves a brain network called the non-classical auditory system and is an emotional response to sound rather than an auditory response. Children described as being hypersensitive to sound have adverse emotional reactions to sound and situations in which the sounds are present.

A toilet flushing, vacuum, or a loud restaurant are examples of commonly reported sounds or situations in which a child may have an autonomic nervous system reaction, which typically involves a fight or flight response. For instance, in anticipation of the frightening sound, a child may lose control of their behavior and try to run away (flight). They might put up a strong, negative, emotional fight to avoid the sound (fight). Or they may retreat inward through behaviors such as covering their ears or rocking as ways to calm themselves.

These negative responses to sounds can be difficult to manage due to the combination of specific sound triggers and the undesirable stress-related responses to those sounds. Over time, the brain can become accustomed to these undesirable stress-related responses (almost like a negative patterned “brain habit”) that can eventually be instigated by visual reminders of those offensive sounds.

When this pattern develops, it is important to think about a form of therapy that not only assists the brain with revisiting the way it processes an “offensive” sound, but also with resetting its response to that sound. This is one of the reasons so many professionals and families use and trust The Listening Program.

TLP training not only addresses hypersensitivity, or difficulty processing specific sound frequencies, but it also resets the stress-response system. When the child then finds him- or herself in a real-world situation and hears sounds that may have been frightening or annoying in the past, the training allows the child to process the sounds in a more neutral manner.

TLP Spectrum
It is possible to desensitize these emotional reactions and reprogram the emotional memory system so that children can develop a healthy and positive relationship with sound.

A series called TLP Spectrum was developed for The Listening Program. It involves a gentle method of listening therapy to calm and desensitize the limbic system and reprogram the emotional memory system to make sounds something desirable to listen to, rather than avoid.

Throughout training, children are often reported to be more attentive to sounds, better able to detect sounds they hear, and more communicative when communication is verbal, likely because they are more receptive to listening. In addition, fine and gross motor skills for balance and coordination improve due to the low-frequency emphasis to engage the body and brain.

Spectrum provides a gentle and effective solution to systematically shift the brain from the sympathetic fight or flight response to the parasympathetic rest and recovery response.

Optimize Healing by Reducing Stress
ABT’s Clinical Director, Allen T. Lewis, MD expressed that a major issue in brain-impairment, and a substantial roadblock to healing, is stress-overload. Stress impairs healing, immune function, behavior, detoxification, digestion, sensory processing, socialization, language perception, sleep, balance, and overall development.

Stress is pro-inflammatory and chronic stress results in a persistent fight or flight response that shuts down effective immune function.

To heal, the body needs a “safe signal”. This is where TLP comes in as a very important part of his treatment model. He likes TLP because it is a gentle approach to healing the brain, and it is easy to do, even in your own home and on your own schedule. Patients using TLP for just 15 or 30 minutes a day experience faster restoration of more optimal emotional, mental, and physical function.

Develop Harmonious Social Engagement and Communication Skills
The Listening Program targets harmonious social engagement. Many individuals with ASD may have difficulty managing moods and strong emotions or improving emotional intelligence and interpersonal interactions.

Under stressful and fearful conditions, one may notice how a person’s voice “cracks,” raises in pitch, or becomes weak. Whether communication challenges are verbal or nonverbal, whether they involve reading and language or listening and responding appropriately to social cues, it’s important to regulate the emotional system to encourage homeostasis and promote social language.

Social engagement can be negatively impacted due to poor auditory processing. Auditory processing is your ability to understand and make sense of what you hear. Difficulty processing auditory information can hinder learning, thinking, communication and relationships.

In a recent peer-reviewed research article, “Changes in Auditory Processing After Completing The Listening Program Training “published in the International Journal of Listening, the authors evaluated the results of 456 clients ranging in age from 5-50 using the SCAN test of auditory processing both before and after completing The Listening Program.

This study supports the application of The Listening Program method for children and adults with auditory processing deficits and deepens the body of research that validates TLP as an evidence-based practice. Many children and adults on the spectrum experience auditory processing issues.

While the purpose of this study was to evaluate the measurable changes in auditory processing abilities for people who undergo TLP training, the changes that took place in participants’ lives after completing the treatment are of equal, or perhaps even greater, importance.

Subject 29 is now a happy bubbly child who willingly engages in conversation, has established friendships, loves going to her friend’s birthday parties, and her family can now enjoy trips to the supermarket, to their local restaurant or even enjoy holidays together. None of these factors were observed prior to the child completing TLP training.

Overall, the individuals in this study were observed to be calmer, more settled, having reductions in anxiety, greater confidence, and self-esteem, improved social interactions, and better outcomes in reading and spelling abilities as well as improvements in speech and articulation.

We can help individuals with autism improve how they process what they hear which can positively influence their functioning in school, at work, in social situations, and in their lives, in general. This is one of the reasons using The Listening Program is so worthwhile.

TLP Achieve
One of the most gentle and effective ways to engage the auditory system and improve communication skills is with TLP Achieve, which is one of the core programs available from The Listening Program. Achieve is the go-to listening therapy for Speech-Language Pathologists to promote the attainment of speech and developmental milestones because the brain processes the elements of music and language similarly.

Achieve targets the mid-range frequencies (300hz-5000hz), which is the primary speech range, allowing the individual to experience the transformative effect on communication and social connection.

Strengthening Skills for a Lifetime Love of Learning
The Listening Program can help individuals on the autism spectrum improve how they process what they hear which can positively influence their functioning in school, at work, in social situations, and in their lives, in general.

Professionals and families consistently see improvements acquisition of new developmental, language, social, emotional, and academic skills. TLP is really a go-to therapy to help individuals on the autism spectrum progress and heal faster.

This article is also in the Autism Hope Alliance Resource Booklet, “What the Experts Know”, pages 84-92. To receive the booklet, visit

1. Lillian Stiegler, Rebecca Davis, “Understanding sound sensitivity in individuals with autism spectrum disorders”. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, June 2010, vol. 25 no. 2 67-75
2. Jay Lucker, Alex Doman, “Auditory hypersensitivity and autism spectrum disorders: An emotional response” Autism Science Digest, vol.4, 2012.

April 06, 2021 by Advanced Brain

Tags Advanced Brain TechnologiesAutismAutism Hope AllianceAutism Music TherapycommunicationEmotional Regulationlistening therapySensory ProcessingThe Listening Program





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 Integrated Listening System

The Integrated Listening System (iLs) was developed to “train the brain to process sensory, cognitive and emotional information more effectively” through improving synaptic connectivity in the brain.
It can be acquired from your local provider Click Here 

Integrated Listening Systems (iLs)

iLs  provides a multisensory experience with the combination of listening to filtered music, which sounds just like standard classical music, while doing exercises, like balancing on a wobble board, hitting a ball suspended from the ceiling, activities with beanbags and many other activities.   All these together work the brain in special ways.  The child uses headphones that provide both air and bone conduction in the auditory retraining process.

Most of us are not aware of it, but we hear sounds in 2 ways – through air conduction and bone conduction. Most of us have experienced the odd sensation of hearing our own voice on audio tape and not recognizing it. This is because on the tape we only hear the air conducted sound of our voice. When we speak we hear our voice through both bone and air conduction. (This is why when we go to an audiologist to have our hearing checked, a vibrator is placed on the mastoid bone right behind the ear to test our bone conduction response.)

iLs includes movement and balance equipment as well as a guidebook for doing the visual tracking and balance activities while listening.  The activities included with the program work on:

Breathing, Balance and Core activities designed to improve vestibular function, self-regulation, circulation, flexibility, focus and core strength.

Visual Motor with beanbags, bouncing and hanging balls that work on visual tracking, eye/hand coordination, hemispheric integration and concentration.

Miscellaneous activities of digit dexterity, aerobic and hemispheric integration improves digit dexterity of finger isolation, independent movement and sequencing, aerobic capacity and hemisphere integration.

Cognitive tasks, that are on 3 different levels that can be adjusted according to the abilities of the individual child.

The combination of all the activities trains the brain to process and manage multi-sensory input improving concentration, cognitive skills such as reading and writing, visual and auditory processing, movement/coordination, processing speed, energy, self-confidence, mood, behavior and reduced anxiety and stress.

Many hours of listening and “playing”  are needed to complete the program so they also offer an at home program where the parents can lease to own or just lease the equipment then it is supervised by your therapist that is certified in home supervision. This way your child can get more of the therapeutic benefits of the program.

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.

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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 swing

  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

emotional self-regulation strategies


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An Overview of The Zones of Regulation:
Curriculum and Learning Outcomes

What’s inside this article: Of overview of The Zones of Regulation for anyone interested in learning and implementing the program. Includes tips for getting started, how the program works, curriculum and learning outcomes, and why social-emotional development is important.

The Zones of Regulation is a complete social-emotional learning curriculum, created to teach children self-regulation and emotional control.

It’s often taught in school or therapy settings but parents can use and teach The Zones of Regulation at home, too. Implementing strategies across different environments increases the success of the program.

The Zones of Regulation: Overview

Leah Kuypers created The Zones of Regulation in 2011. She and her team provide training and resources for schools and individuals looking to use the Zones Framework with children.

This article is an overview of the program. It covers a brief explanation of what the Zones of Regulation are, how they’re taught to children, and how you can begin using the concepts.

It does not serve as a replacement for the official Zones Framework, this is just a starting point for people who want to learn more.

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This article also links to teaching materials you can use including worksheets and interactive activities to support learning.

What Does The Zones of Regulation Teach Children?

This program teaches a variety of social-emotional skills to children, starting with early emotional skills and advancing on to self-regulation and navigating social situations..

Here are some skills taught covered in The Zones of Regulation:

  • Identifying your emotions by categorizing feelings into four zones (more on this below)

  • Self-regulation: Achieving the preferred state of alertness (zone) for a situation. This is all about regulating your body and emotional regulation.

  • Identifying triggers: Learning what makes you “tick” and why

  • Coping strategies: Various techniques and strategies that help achieve emotional regulation and manage strong emotions

  • Size of the problem: Introduces the idea that the size of your reaction should match the size of your problem, how to identify the size of your problem, and strategies for problem-solving.

  • Expected behavior vs unexpected behavior: This also covers perspective taking and how your behavior affects the thoughts and feelings of the people around you 

What Are The Zones Colors & Their Meanings?

The Zones of Regulation uses four colors to help children self-identify how they’re feeling and categorize it based on color.

The curriculum also helps children better understand their emotions, sensory needs, and thinking patterns.

They learn different strategies to help them cope and manage their emotions based on which color zone they’re in.

Additionally, the Zones of Regulation helps kids recognize their own triggers, learn to read facial expressions, develop problem-solving skills, and become more attuned to how their actions affect other people (Kuypers, L.M, 2011).

The Green Zone

The Green Zone means you’re feeling calm and alert, or “just right”.

Being in the green zone means you are calm, focused, happy, relaxed, or ready to learn. This is predominantly the state you want your child to be in. Although, the yellow zone is okay sometimes, too. And, you’ll learn, that there are times when the other zones are expected.

Usually, teachers want their students in the Green Zone in the classroom, so they’re ready to learn.

The Yellow Zone

The yellow zone describes when you have a heightened sense of alertness. This isn’t always a bad thing, and you still have some control of your actions when you’re in the yellow zone.

Being in the yellow means you may feel frustrated, anxious, or nervous. But, it could also mean you’re feeling excited, silly, or hyper – which is okay in the right situations.

The Red Zone

The red zone describes an extremely heightened state of intense emotions. When a person reaches the red zone, they’re no longer able to control their emotions or reactions.

This is the zone kids are in during meltdowns.

Being in the red zone means you’re out of control. You could be feeling many things, such as, anger, rage, terror, or complete devastation.

The Blue Zone

The blue zone, on the other hand, is used when a person is feeling low states of alertness or arousal.

When you’re in the blue zone you may be feeling down – sad, sick, tired, or bored. You’re still in control, as you are in the yellow zone, but with low energy emotions.

The Four Zones of Regulation and a short list of emotions that fit into each of the zones.

Teaching the Zones of Regulation

First of all, you can purchase the entire Zones curriculum online from Social Thinking.

But, if you’re a parent, there are lots of ways you can help your child learn the Zones at home without using or purchasing the entire curriculum.

The articles below offer many resources to help you get started:

14 Zones of Regulation Activities and Printables

Various Zones of Regulation activities and printable worksheets, which can be used by counselors, teachers, or parents, as supplemental activities for teaching and reinforcing concepts from The Zones of Regulation curriculum.

Read Now

22 Page Free Zones Printable Bundle

A bundle of free Zones of Regulation printables that you can download as a package and use as a supplement to the Zones of Regulation curriculum.

Read Now

Free Zones of Regulation Webinar

You can sign up and watch a free webinar where the Zones of Regulation creator, Leah Kuypers, talks about:

  • Interoception and helping students manage the zone they’re in

  • Common mistakes made when teaching the Zones

  • Introduction of a new teaching tool, Navigating the Zones!

  • What Zones users around the world have taught Leah`

Zones of Regulation Apps

There are also two Zones of Regulation Apps available from the Amazon app store. Unfortunately, these apps aren’t free. However, they are low-cost.

Teaching Kids to Identifying Zones

The first step to teaching the Zones of Regulation is teaching your child what the four zones are, and which emotions fall into each zone. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you.

It’s necessary that your child is able to accurately identify which emotions belong in which zone. This is the first step to their success.

You’ll achieve this through practicing with your child, talking about The Zones frequently, and helping them identify which zone they’re in.

  • Zones of Regulation Bingo – Use these free Zones bingo sheets but instead of playing a traditional Bingo game, try this: Get kids to use red, green. blue, and yellow bingo chips to mark which zone each of the feelings belongs to.

  • Books about Feelings – Read different books about feelings to your child and actively refer to which zone the feelings in the book belong to.

  • Match TV characters to Zones – When you’re watching TV with your child, ask them to identify which zone their favorite characters are in throughout the show. This is a great way to turn your child’s screen time into a learning experience. It also reinforces to your child that the zones can be found everywhere.

  • Body Check Activity – Use this activity to help your child identify how they experience different emotions. Talk about which zone these different feelings are in.

  • Snuggle Buddies – These Snuggle Buddies are from Generation Mindful, and they are perfect for children who are learning the Zones. The pocket in the back of the snuggle buddy has four colored emojis – blue, green, yellow, and red. All of my kids use these.

Strategies for Getting Back to “The Green Zone”

Along with being able to identify the zones and know what zone they’re in, your child also needs to know strategies to help them get back to the green zone.

Practicing co-regulation and self-regulation strategies while your child is in the green zone will help them learn the best ways to get back there during times when they’re feeling stressed, frustrated, sad, etc.

These Resources Can Help With Self-Regulation Strategies:

The Importance of Recognizing Emotions

It’s critically important for children to learn how to recognize their emotions. But, sometimes it’s difficult for parents to see that their child is struggling with this skill.

Think about this:

Let’s say your child recognizes they’re angry because whenever they get mad, their heart races. So – they feel their heart race and the result is an angry outburst. Red zone.

BUT – Fear ALSO causes our hearts to race. If your child isn’t able to recognize the other sensations that happen when they’re both afraid and angry, then they’ll react angrily when they’re actually scared. Then, they won’t understand what’s happening or how to regulate that emotion.

The Zones of Regulation help children learn all of the physiological sensations they feel in response to different emotions. Ultimately, this helps kids regulate those feelings and respond to situations in an expected way.

When kids fully understand what they’re feeling, they can make sense of, and regulate their emotions much better.

Common Questions

What age is The Zones of Regulation for?

The lessons are designed for all ages, starting with preschool, for children without developmental delays. However, when working with young children, I often find they need a lot of repetition to solidify the early concepts, and the more advanced concepts aren’t developmentally appropriate.

Usually, children around 7 or 8 years old start to grasp the concepts better and the Zones also help older children and even adults.

Is Zones of Regulation an Evidence-Based Strategy?

The zones of regulation is currently a practice-based framework, based on evidence-based strategies.

Before something is considered evidence-based, it must undergo a minimum number of peer-reviewed studies.

Because the Zones of Regulation is used widely across schools in the US and internationally, there are many research projects being conducted and/or awaiting peer review. However, this is a process that can take a significant amount of time.

Do the Zones of Regulation Work?

When taught and implemented consistently and in a developmentally appropriate way, the Zones of Regulation helps children understand and regulate their emotions.

To increase success, provide numerous opportunities for children to practice these skills over a range of environments. It’s helpful if parents, educators, and other caregivers use similar language when talking about their emotions, as well as provide visual support such as posters. 

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This Christmas, Build Empathy & Gratitude with Kindness ElvesZones of Regulation Activities and Printables

Free Zones of Regulation Printables

What’s inside this article: A bundle of free zones of regulation printables that you can download and use as a supplement to the Zones of Regulation curriculum.

I’ve put together a 22-page bundle of free Zones of Regulation printables that you’re free to use as a supplement to your Zones of Regulation curriculum.

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 Printables

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 could they use?

What Zone Are They In?

Cut out the different cartoon characters faces and have your kids sort them based on what zone it looks like they’re in. You can do this together and talk about what emotions you think they’re feel. 

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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How to Use Emotion Coaching to Teach Children Self-Regulation


As my son gets older and more submerged into the world around him, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well he will be able to cope. Have I prepared my child for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have I implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for him? Surely I can’t guarantee his happiness, but I can give him a strong foundation for his mental health – and that could be everything.

Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life.

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a topic near and dear to my heart. And as an advocate for mental health (and a parent), it is not lost on me how influential my role is on my sons childhood mental health.

As described in a 2013 MMWR report, mental health in childhood is characterized by “…the achievement of development and emotional milestones, healthy social development, and effective coping skills, such that mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

There are many other ways to foster your child’s mental health. 

Here are some daily steps to keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

First and foremost, our children learn by example. As parents, there is so much we can offer to help nurture their mental health during the most developmental stages of their life. Here are just a few:

1. Build Their Self-esteem

  • Be on Your Child’s Team: Regularly support and encourage your child. Make sure to praise their efforts, not their achievements, and to believe them and believe in them.

  • Let Them Learn Naturally: Promote independent learning. Have your child experience and accept the natural consequences of life and experience the benefits of positive actions as well.

  • Encourage Healthy Self-Talk: Use words of encouragement and daily affirmations. See our list of affirmations for kids here.

  • Ensure Their Sense of Belonging: Your child needs to feel like they are invited, accepted and loved. Make sure to spend family time together, play with them and remind them how valuable they are.

2. Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Provide an environment that demonstrates love, compassion, trust and understanding every day. Let your child know you are a safe place and confidant when it comes to their feelings and thoughts. Implement a predictable routine in the household, as to create a sense of stability and comfort.

3. Establish Healthy Habits

Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough play time/exercise. Physical health is just as important.

4. Explain Feelings and Reactions

Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language.

5. Model Healthy Behavior

Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication and emotional stability.

These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on building your child’s confidence.

5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions: Printable Poster

Whenever I ask parents what their biggest parenting struggle is, patience is always right there at the top of the list. We struggle to keep our cool in all sorts of situations – when we are rushing to get everyone out the door, when we have asked our child 272 times to do something, when they whine and whinge, when siblings squabble, and the list goes on.

Often it is when our children are having the most trouble keeping their cool that we also lose ours. Which we all know is pretty unhelpful in the scheme of things, especially as our children are watching and learning from everything we do. And managing big emotions is hard when you are two or four or six or sixteen. In fact at times it can be hard, whatever age you are!

Being prepared with a strategy for helping children through those times when they are experiencing big or overwhelming emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy or embarrassment, is one way to help both you and them to work through those emotions more effectively.

It’s not about teaching our children that their emotions aren’t important or valid, or that they must be hidden or suppressed, but it is about helping them to find socially acceptable ways to express and deal with their emotions – most importantly, in ways that don’t hurt others.

5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Printable Poster

I like the idea of developing a ‘Calm Down Plan’ with your child (or children) so that they have a plan to work through when they do feel upset or out of control, and think the following five steps provide a great place to start.

5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions

1. Remind myself that it is never okay to hurt others.
It is important to set clear guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not. In our house, we are not allowed to hurt or be destructive to others or their property. That includes hurting others with our words. 

2. Take 3 deep breaths or count slowly to 10.
Helping children to understand that these big feelings are completely normal but it is their reaction and actions as a result of those feelings that can hurt others (and ultimately, ourselves), is an important part of the calm down plan. Taking a few deep breaths or slowly counting to ten gives the child time to recognise their body’s warning signs – whether they be a tense body, clenched teeth or racing heart. When making a plan, talk with your child about how their body feels when they are angry or frustrated and then introduce the idea of taking a few breaths to compose themselves and to form a better course of action then striking out at another person.

What Your Child Needs Most When They're Angry

3. Use my words to say how I feel and what I wish would happen.
Acknowledging the big feelings recognises that these feelings are legitimate and important and saying what they wish would happen helps to open a problem solving conversation. Of course, what they wish would happen won’t always be an acceptable solution for all parties, and this can often be a difficult lesson for children to learn (and virtually impossible for very young children to learn) and they will often need support to work out a more peaceful solution, especially when they are used to striking out when they feel big emotions.

4. Ask for help to solve the problem.
As an adult I often find talking through a problem really helps me to process it, and children will often need support as they learn to problem solve and find solutions in social situations. Let your child know that it is okay to ask for help when they don’t feel that they can solve the problem and keep these important channels of communication open, so that one day when they are working on much bigger problems than a spat with a sibling or frustration with a friend, they feel that they can always come to you for help.

5. Take the time I need to calm down.
Let your child know that sometimes they just won’t feel that the solution proposed is enough and that they may still feel angry or upset even having worked through each of the above steps, and that in these situations it is often better to walk away or to find another safe way to diffuse those feelings. Next week I will share a range of cool down strategies that children can use to help work through these lingering emotions or to distract themselves from the situation (you can now find this post here). As an adult, it is important to remember that this step is not about isolating the child but about giving them space if they want it, or going to them and supporting them through this final step if they need it.

The 5 Steps Printable Poster
As I mentioned above, it is often in the heat of the moment that these ideas go straight out of our mind and we find ourselves settling back into old habits of getting angry or acting impatiently with our child, rather than helping them work through a plan to calm down and be more in control. This is why I decided to make these five steps into a printable poster.

Firstly, to act as a discussion guide as you work out your very own calm down plan, and secondly, as a visual prompt for when you or your child need that reminder and support.

Print out a copy and hang it in their bedroom or playroom, or even your living area and refer to it regularly as you help your child learn to process these big emotions!

5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Printable

Download Instructions: Managing Big Emotions Poster

Click here to download: 5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Poster. Save the PDF to your computer. Open the PDF to print the pages you require. Please carefully read any printing instructions included within the document.
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Please note: All Childhood 101 printables are for personal use only, you may not use any part of this content for commercial purposes-that includes selling the document, giving it away to promote your business or website, or printing the file to sell. You may not share, loan or redistribute these documents. Teachers may use multiple copies for students in their own classroom.

Check out our other social emotional learning resources for managing big emotions:

Managing Big Emotions Resource footer

What is a Time In?

This teaching moment is called 'Time In.' I read many articles on this, but my personal favorite was Big Little Feelings’ words on the subject. Instead of yelling at our child to go to their room, as parents we should take the child away from the situation where they are performing their bad behavior and stay with them while they calm down. 

First, start off by controlling the situation. Get down to their eye level. Make sure they are unable to hurt anyone else or themselves. Don’t lecture or teach until they are calm and can listen.

One of the things that I loved most about how Big Little Feelings explains this step is to come in confidently. Often times, as parents we are not confident on how to handle a situation. I straight up have no idea what I’m doing sometimes–flying by the seat of my pants–faking it ‘til I make it. Usually this works out just fine and we all survive by the end of the day. During times of huge tantrums or behavior issues, my confidence to know what to do usually goes down because I know how important it is to teach good behavior, and I'm not 100% sure what to do. 

That is why having a plan like Time In is important. Before the situation even happens, you know what you will do and a solid plan boosts confidence. Your child will feel that and know they are safe to express their emotion instead of feeling an equal response of freaking out from you.  

How to Have a Time In:

  • Control the situation, ensure your child isn't hurting themselves or others.

  • Be confident.

  • Get down to their eye level.

  • Show them love and empathy.

  • Validate emotions: “I know you were mad. It’s okay to be mad. I get mad too.” 

  • Once they are calm, teach them correct behavior: “It is not okay to throw a spatula at your sister."

  • Give them coping strategies: "Next time you’re feeling mad take a deep breath and count to ten like Daniel Tiger.” 

A Time In is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your child, show them that feelings are normal, that they are safe to express them within boundaries, and that you have them too! 

Remember to Regulate Your Emotions Too

Going along with you having emotions too, make sure that you are expressing your emotions in healthy ways as well. Remember that your little one is always looking to you as an example. Maybe you aren’t throwing yourself on the ground when you don’t get candy at the grocery store, but maybe you start yelling when something small happens, like when they accidentally spill their juice or make noise while the baby is sleeping. These are totally annoying instances, but probably worth screaming.

If you are dealing with postpartum depression or feeling down for longer than two weeks, seeing a healthcare professional is a great idea! You can be a great example to your little one that taking care of your mental and emotional health is a priority and that it is not a bad or embarrassing thing.

For more information on postpartum depression, check out our posts explaining what it is and what it feels like. Remember, there are many resources out there to help you manage your own feelings, and you aren't alone!

The toddler stage is hard, and every child is different. So if you are finding that Time Out is not working for your child, try a Time In.

For more toddler tips go to