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‘Our outstanding nursery school offers free 15 hour places 'for all 3 and 4 year olds' and 30 hour places for working parents’. Please contact the Nursery School 0151 233 4594 or for 2 year olds the Childcare Centre 0151 256 5683
Ellergreen Nursery School & Chilcare Centre

Broadening Horizons. Brightening Futures

Zones of Regulation

Zones of Regulation


'Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it'.      Charles Swindoll


The Zones of Regulation is a framework that we use to support children to describe, understand and manage their feelings and behaviour. This is used with all children at Ellergreen Nursery School and Childcare Centre as the ability to self-regulate is a skill that children need to be taught, just like writing their name or using a knife and fork!


What are the Zones?



The zones of regulation are split into four colours blue, green, yellow and red. Each colour represents a different group of emotion and behaviour, as displayed above. 

No zone is a 'bad zone'. We encourage and validate all feelings across all four zones. We teach the children that it is ok to be in any zone but that it doesn't feel nice to be out of the green zone for too long. 


Why use the zones of regulation at home?

  • It supports the use of a consistent shared language to discuss emotions together.
  • They are clear for most children to understand. 
  • It supports children to label emotions and identify how they are feeling.
  • It helps children to understand that there are no bad emotions and that they are safe to express their feelings.
  • Children learn healthy co-regulation and self-regulation strategies so that they are ready to learn and know what to do if they ever feel sad, anxious or angry. 
  • Typically, children who can self-regulate will turn into teens and young adults who can self-regulate. 
  • Children who are able to understand their own big emotions can be supported to understand how others feel and therefore develop empathy and social skills.


What Can I do as a Parent?

Talk to your child about:

  • How they are feeling, help them to label and name their emotion (e.g "I can see you are crying, you look like you're in the blue zone", "you're smiling, you look happy"). Identify your own feelings using Zones language in front of your child (e.g. “I'm nervous, I am in the yellow zone”)
  • Talk about their body cues when they feel that emotion. What are the physical feelings behind the emotion? (e.g feeling butterflies in our tummy when we feel nervous or worried.) Recognising emotions is the first step to regulating them.
  • Discuss why they are feeling a certain way, has anything happened? Can you relate to them? E.g "I would feel sad if someone knocked over my tower too"
  • Talk about times when you, a family member or a character from a film or book felt that way.


The Tool Box


When children are stuck in a zone they can be encouraged to use a 'tool' from their tool box to change it.  We help the children to identify different tools that help them when they are in a zone that they are uncomfortable in. For example, if your child is comforted or soothed by drawing then you may say "let's think about your tool box, what helps you to get in the green zone? Drawing is in your tool box". In school, if the children have a successful yoga session then the staff may say "yoga has helped you to get into the green zone, let's put yoga in your tool box".


Here are some more strategies you might like to try:
1 Breathing exercises 
2 Squeeze a stress ball or pillow as hard as you can
3 Go for a walk
4 Go on a swing
5 Do some colouring or drawing
6 Play with play dough
7 Use positive affirmations
8 Rip up paper
9 Dance
10 Do some yoga
11Ask for a hug
12 Hug your favourite stuffed animal
13 Watch funny videos
14 Build with Lego
15 Do 5 jumping jacks
16 Spend time with a pet
17 Look through a photo album
18 Use a fidget toy
19 Go outside

Stories and Books

Every book that is shared is an oppourtunity to support children in understanding the zones, for example, "Goldilocks is crying. What zone do you think she is in?", "look at the bears face, how is he feeling?". You might like to share some of the stories below with your child to further explore feelings and emotions.


In My Heart: A Book of Feelings


What should DANNY do? By Ganit & Adir Levy


https://"Pete The Cat and his Magic Sunglasses" by Kimberly and James Dean


The Way I Feel - by Janan Cain


Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day


Size of the Problem



The zones of regulation 'size of the problem' teaches children to consider the size of their problem in contrast to the size of their reaction. It is an emotional regulation tool that can guide children to self regulate their emotions, in order to respond appropriately. We support children to understand the size of the problem by discussing how much help they need, for example, "I know that you're sad because you're tower has fallen down. I can help you to build it again quickly, this is a tiny problem". However, if a child needs a lot of help from adults to solve their problem then this would be considered a big problem.


It helps children to know and understand the following:


  • Problems come in different sizes
  • Emotions and reactions come in different sizes
  • Reactions come from emotions and there are different methods of expression
  • It’s expected that the size of the emotion and related reaction matches the size of the problem

By teaching children this, we help establish norms around defining and emotionally responding to a problem.