Headstart for Life

Go Green Zone!

Posted on Monday, September 30, 2019 by 1 minute

When young people don’t know how to control or release what they are feeling in a healthy way, it’s easier for them to make emotion-based decisions.

How does a child who lacks socio-emotional regulation look like?

                                                    child3     child2

                                                       child1  child4

Here at HeadStart For Life School Readiness Programme, we focus on the child’s ability to read and interpret his own and other thoughts, emotions, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, etc. as well as to relate appropriately to social situations. We, adults, do it intuitively. However, for children who are having difficulty with socio-emotional regulation, we have to teach it cognitively.

Three ways to help your child


Social behaviour mapping is a thinking strategy explaining how we react to each other based on our actions that are expected or unexpected in that situation. According to Michelle Garcia Winner, author of  The Zones of Regulation, define the unexpected behaviours first as they are easier to observe; the expected behaviours should be the opposite of the listed unexpected behaviours. Expected behaviors should always be in a positive voice. Avoid listing “what not to do” in the expected column.

Credits: https://nrwinter.com/2016/10/15/expected-unexpected-behaviors-social-thinking-introduction-lesson/

Credits: https://nrwinter.com/2016/10/15/expected-unexpected-behaviors-social-thinking-introduction-lesson/



Zones of Regulation teaches how to categorize all feelings and states of alertness we experience into 4 concrete (color-coded) zones. This helps students become aware of their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve.

Zones check-in (see sample images below) includes vocabulary of emotions and behaviours. Be careful not to label any zone as a BAD zone. Use “expected” and “unexpected.” For example, discuss expected behaviours and link it to the goal of “Staying in Green Zone”

zones checkin zonescheckin1  zon  zones check invisual

GREEN ZONE – ready to learn

ready to learn ready to learn1

BLUE ZONE – sad / frustrated

bored       sad

YELLOW ZONE – overwhelmed / excited

frustrated        excited

RED ZONE – out of control / angry

out of control  



Explore tools which include sensory supports, calming techniques, and thinking strategies to help the child get back or stay in the green zone.

Sensory support tools help develop self-regulation by providing the sensation the child naturally seeks to help organize different types of information in the brain detected by one’s senses (e.g. taste, sight, hearing, touch, smell, movement, gravity or position). Processing all these types of information forms the underlying foundation for academic learning and social behaviour. Some examples of sensory tools that can be introduced are below:

Movement-based tools  

wobble cushio   

Muscle- and joint – based tools




Tactile-based tools

Auditory tools

Visual Accommodations and Tools

tinted glasses


Calming techniques include the following:

  • designated calming area
  • deep breathing fun (e.g. blowing bubbles)
  • lazy 8 breathing
  • yoga
  • mindfulness

Thinking strategies include the following:

  • social behaviour mapping
  • size of the problem
  • Superflex


Prepare the materials and combine the social behaviour map, the zones, and the tools:

toolsgreenyellow red


Remember to get to know your child such as the triggers for meltdowns or outbursts, source of motivation, and sensorial behaviours and patterns.


Introduce the zones and the corresponding behaviours and emotions. Reorient “expected” and “unexpected” behaviours. Lastly, facilitate identification of zones expected in different settings and events.

Something to consider…Untreated social skill deficits become societal problems. In fact, the HeadStart team believes that social skills instructions must be taught within the instructional day then acknowledged and corrected in behaviourally specific terms throughout the day in all settings.




Winner, Michelle Garcia. Thinking about You, Thinking about Me. San Jose, CA: Think Social 2007. Print.

Kuypers, Leah M., and Michelle Winner Garcia. The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed to Forster Self-regulation and Emotional Control, San Jose. CA: Think Social Pub.,2011. Print


"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Dianne

Dianne has 7 years of teaching experience in both special education and early childhood settings. She has always maintained with her the three P’s as an education practitioner – perseverance, patience, and passion. In her teaching practice, she likes to explore on read aloud stories, multi-sensory instructions and music and movement activities.

Leave a Reply