Earth Day Reflections: 3 Ways to Go Green as a Family

Earth Day is a wonderful opportunity for parents and their children to talk about how we can care for our planet. What it really boils down to is recognizing connections. In our disposable, consumable culture, it can be easy to forget where things come from and what we might do differently to lighten our step on the planet. Here are three choices that your family can incorporate into your lives that will have a positive impact on the Earth.

1. Say Goodbye to Paper Towels

Every day, over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced in the US alone. 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed to make one ton of paper towels. If you do the math, it’s staggering how many trees and how much water is represented in one day’s worth (3,000 tons) of paper towel waste! Your family can help remedy that.  

Removing paper towels from our lives can make a significant impact on the environment and it’s easier than it might seem. Paper towels and napkins have been used in American households for generations, but opting for more permanent replacements is simple. Instead of tearing off a new sheet, using and it once, and throwing it away, consider some other options.

Cloth napkins are not only more earth-friendly, but they feel nicer to use. It may seem like a small thing, but selecting and using cloth napkins for meals is a way to infuse everyday life with something a little more special.

Are you crafty? Making your own napkins is one of the simplest sewing projects out there. Find some DIY directions here.

Pressed for time? You can buy cloth napkins almost anywhere. Stores like Marshalls or Homegoods often have designer options for $5 for a package of 4. Online shoppers will love the selection on Etsy or even Amazon.

To involve your kids, bring them to the fabric store to help pick patterns or have them pick out pre-made options that appeal to them, too. If you do decide to sew your own, older children can pitch in (and would likely love the opportunity!)

As for paper towels’ other main use of cleanup duty? Old cotton t-shirts and cloth diapers make the best rags. When you’re getting ready to donate old clothing, pull out items that are stained or torn. Cut the items into large rectangles and store them in a small bucket under your kitchen sink.

2. Start a Garden
The ultimate way to connect kids to their food is to have them grow their own. If you have the space and time, building a raised bed is fairly simple. Even if you have a tiny apartment in a city, container gardening can work on even the smallest fire escape. Students at Sunstone Montessori study botany starting in the Children’s House, so parents will often delight in seeing their child’s excitement while they make connections.

Planning is half the fun. Sit together as a family and look through a seed catalog or pile in the car and visit a local nursery. Figure out what everyone wants to grow and then give it a try. As a bonus, gardening gets everyone outside enjoying the fresh air and sunshine together.

Growing your own food means eating your own food. Not only is freshly picked produce higher in vitamins, but it tends to taste so much better that what we normally find at the grocery store. There may be a natural migration from the garden to the kitchen, as toddlers and teenagers alike will want to participate in making something yummy with the fruits of their labor.

The possibilities with gardening are endless. It’s definitely a learning experience in the beginning, but in no time you’ll be thinking about composting, companion planting, saving seeds, and planning for next year.

3. Speaking of Composting…
If you’re ready to jump even deeper into going green, composting is a fun next step. There are many ways to compost, but one of the most fun to do with children is vermicomposting. Special bins are used to house worms that can eat and transform your produce scraps and shredded paper.

Sound too complicated? Smelly? Slimy? Expensive?

It’s pretty simple to set up, even easier to maintain, and really not gross at all. An added perk: the resulting compost will make those plants in your garden grow like crazy! While there certainly are really nice (and expensive) worms bins out there, there are definitely more cost effective ways to try it out.

Some options include the popular Can O Worms or the slightly sturdier Worm Factory.

You can even make your own worm bin for as little as $20. Click here for how-to directions. Red wigglers are the best worms to use for vermicomposting. You may be able to source some locally, but if not Carolina Biological is a great option for mail-order worms.

Helpful tips to vermicomposting:

  • Keep a spray bottle of water handy (to keep worms and bedding moist) and some old newspapers on hand.
  • Prevent unpleasant odors by balancing what goes into the worm bin, including a mix of kitchen scraps and shredded paper. It’s also a good idea to avoid feeding worms animal by products, so keep meat and dairy out. For the most part, redworms don’t care for onions, although some do so it doesn’t hurt to try. Follow these simple steps and you will be surprised at the complete lack of odor coming from your bin.
  • Worm bins can even be kept indoors, with basements being an ideal location for many families (although they stay just about anywhere room-temperature).
  • On rare occasions, you may notice some fruit flies in or around your bin. To make a simple fruit fly trap, use a disposable plastic cup, such as a yogurt cup. Fill ⅛ way full with water and add a drop or two of dish soap. Some people like to add a little apple cider vinegar as well. Cover the top of the cup with a small piece of plastic wrap, secure with a rubber band, and poke a few holes. Leave the trap sitting inside the top layer of your bin and the fruit fly problem is solved.

Vermicomposting is a special learning experience for children and adults alike. Worms teach us about decomposition and ecosystems. Watching the worms work will give kids a new appreciation for these small creatures, and instill a sense of the interconnectedness of everything on Earth.

Happy Earth Day!

Montessori Basics: The Planes of Development

Maria Montessori based her entire educational philosophy on the idea that children developed through a series of four planes.  Each of these planes is easy to recognize and has clear, defining characteristics.  If we study and understand these stages, we can approach our interactions with children with a new perspective.

Learning about the planes of development isn’t just for Montessori educators.  Understanding your child’s development can help at home, too.

The First Plane: birth-6 years

During this stage children absorb everything like sponges.  They are, indeed, excellent examples if what Montessori called ‘The Absorbent Mind.’  This is a time in which we are able to utilize what Montessori called sensitive periods of learning.  While each child is different, there are typical patterns that emerge in regards to brain development and general readiness to learn particular skills.

During the first three years of this plane, all learning is done outside of the child’s conscious mind.  They learn by exploring their senses and interacting with their environment.  During the second half of the plane, from about 3-6 years, children enter the conscious stage of learning.  They learn by using their hands, and specialized materials in the Montessori classroom were developed with this consideration.

During this time, children have a wonderful sense of order.  They are methodical and can appreciate the many steps involved in practical life lessons in their classrooms.  The organization of the works on their classroom shelves is intentional, which appeals again to this sense of order.

The first plane is a time in which children proclaim, “I can do it myself”; it is a time of physical independence.

The Second Plane: 6-12 years

During the elementary years children begin to look outside themselves.  They suddenly develop a strong desire to form peer groups.  Previously, during the first plane, a child would be content to focus on their own work while sitting near others.  In the second plane, a child is compelled to actually work with their friends.  It is during this time that children are ready to learn about collaboration.

During the second plane there is a sudden and marked period of physical growth.  This may be a contributing factor to the observation that many children of this age seem to lack an awareness of their body, often bumping into things and knocking things over.  Children begin to lose their teeth around this time as well.  Their sense of order and neatness tend to fade a bit during this plane.

Throughout the second plane, children’s imaginations are ignited.  Since Montessori education is based in reality, we find ways to deliver real information to children through storytelling and other similar methods.  For example, when teaching children about the beginnings of our universe, Montessori schools use what is called a Great Lesson.  The first Great Lesson is a dramatic story, told to children with the use of props, experiments, and dramatics (think: a black balloon filled with glitter is popped to illustrate the Big Bang, with bits of paper in a dish of water used while talking about particles gathering together).  This lesson is fascinating for children in the way it is presented, but gives them basic information about the solar system, states of matter, and other important concepts.

Children in the second plane have a voracious appetite for information, and are often drawn strongly to what we in Montessori call the cultural subjects: science, history, and geography.  While we support their rapid language and mathematical growth during this time, we are also responsible for providing them with a variety of rich cultural lessons and experiences.

It is important to note that children develop a sense of moral justice at this time.  They are very concerned with what is fair, and creating the rules to a new game is often as important (if not more so) than playing the actual game itself.

This is the period of time in which children are striving for intellectual independence.

The Third Plane: 12-18

The third plane of development encompasses the adolescent years.  During the second plane, children become aware of social connections, but in the third plane they are critical.  During this time children rely heavily on their relationships with their peers.  They feel a strong desire to remain independent from adults, although they are not quite ready to do this entirely.  It is our job to find ways that allow them to experiment with independence while also providing a safe structure in which they may do so.

Children in the third plane tend to require more sleep, and they sleep later than when they were younger.  They long for authentic learning experiences, and Dr. Montessori imagined just that.  Her ideas of Erdkinder (children of the earth) led her to contemplate a school setting that would support children’s development during this time.  She imagined a farm school, in which children would work to keep the farm operational, but also contribute to planning and decision making while doing so.

During the third plane children are refining their moral compass while developing a stronger sense of responsibility.

The Fourth Plane: 18-24

The final plane is a time in which young adults are striving for financial independence.  They are often living away from home for the first time, and use this time to figure out where they fit into their society.  Many make choices to further their education and/or explore career paths.

It is during the fourth plane that people begin to develop a truer sense of who they are as individuals.

Each plane of development should be mindfully nurtured.  If a child is able to experience one developmental phase in a rich and carefully prepared environment, they are ready to fully take on the next phase when it is time.



Intrinsic Motivation is Sustaining

We are often amazed at the capabilities of Montessori children. They bounce home from school each day excited about their learning. As adults, they tend to be driven and innovative. How does one cultivate such an attitude toward the world? How might we guide our children to want to learn? To want to discover? To always pursue more without being told they must? The key lies in what type of motivation we utilize.

Rewards and Punishments
In most traditional education settings around the country teachers use systems of rewards and punishments to drive desired behaviors. Most of us grew up experiencing this type of system, and it can be easy as parents to occasionally rely on these tactics as well. These are extrinsic motivators, and they’re more common than you might think.

Rewards are positive and external. For example, a teacher might give a child a gold star sticker or a special stamp on their paper if a child does well. They may let children have extra playtime for following directions or a pizza party in exchange for getting their homework done. Rewards can take many other forms, too, including verbal praise or good grades on a report card.

Punishments include any negative external motivator. These include bad grades and removal of privileges, but sometimes include harsher examples.

Believe it or not, there are even more ways to impart subtle, nuanced external motivators. Any time we make a statement or even use a facial expression that conveys our own pleasure or displeasure with a behavior or action, we are utilizing external motivation. While these tactics may sometimes work in the short term, research shows they do little for long-term motivation success.

Intrinsic Motivation
Some forms of motivation don’t come from an outside source at all, but from within the individual. The good news is, children are born wanting to learn. We are curious beings and have the innate ability to work for our own joy.

Think of a time you accomplished something great. How did you feel afterward? Were you thinking about how others would perceive your accomplishment or were you satisfied with your work for its own sake? In Montessori schools, we often guide children to reflect on their own feelings after they complete a challenge. They may come to us, excitedly showing or retelling. We may be inclined to say, “Good job!”, but those types of statements are better off unsaid. If we reward a child with our approval, they will work to seek that approval in the future. If, instead, we ask a child how they feel about the work, or comment on something factual we notice, the drive will remain within them. We might say, “I noticed you kept trying even when that was challenging. How do you feel now that you completed it?” or “It seemed like you enjoyed that work. What will you do next?” These types of statements make it possible for us to acknowledge a child without placing our own judgements on their experiences.

Research suggests that while external rewards may work occasionally, intrinsic motivation is much more effective. In one study, preschoolers who loved to draw were divided into three groups: one was told they would receive a reward for drawing, one was told they would not, and a third received an unexpected reward afterward. Not surprisingly, the group that expected a reward drew for much less time and created less aesthetically appealing drawings. There was little difference between the other two groups, although they far outperformed the first. []

Driving Forces in Academics
So how do Montessori teachers guide children to want to do their work? As we mentioned before, that’s the easy part. The desire to work is innate in children. Our job is to nurture and honor it. Even the terminology we use is intentional. Our youngest students aren’t asked to play during the morning cycle, but to work. We let them know we recognize what they’re doing is important. It’s work, and we are there to support them in doing that work.

As Montessorians we also believe that a beautiful environment full of enriching materials can serve to motivate children. We consider what the children before us need, and we carefully select and place appropriate materials on the shelves for them to discover.

Montessori materials are typically autodidactic. This means that the learner is able to self-correct their work while they are in the process of completing it. For example, a child placing wooden cylinders into holes will know they need to adjust their work if the final cylinder doesn’t fit into the final hole. These built-in corrections allow the child to work and learn directly from the materials without teacher input, essentially furthering the child’s independence and internal motivation.

Montessori guides are also adept at utilizing children’s interests to help them succeed in areas that challenge them. A child who is reluctant to read but loves dinosaurs may just need a basket of books about dinosaurs. A child who resists math but adores their friends may need to work cooperatively to find success. Knowing what sparks a child’s enthusiasm is the key to opening a whole world of academic content.

There are other structures built into the Montessori day that support intrinsic motivation. The three hour uninterrupted work cycle is one, as is allowing for ample student choice. The strategies allow children to select work that is meaningful to them, and to spend time really getting deep into that work. We allow them to fully explore their interests, which is where real creativity and lasting learning take place. Children feel empowered by their independence, and this in itself drives them to explore deeper learning.

When we teach children to follow their own instincts, even when it comes to learning, we are preparing them for a lifetime of success. School won’t just be a place they have to go and have information delivered to them; it becomes a place where they look forward to going so that they may discover the world for themselves.



The Top 7 Benefits of Self-Directed Play!

Perhaps you’ve heard about self-directed play, also known as open-ended play. The concept is nothing new and has, in fact, existed as long as children have been playing. It is the ‘original’ style of play its benefits remain timeless.

Self-directed play embraces many Montessori ideals and helps your child develop crucial skills to succeed in school and life every time that he plays.

Once you understand the reasons for encouraging children to engage in self-directed play and you have a basic understanding of how it works, putting it into practice at home is simple!

What, exactly, is self-directed play?

If your child is using simple toys in creative ways with no adult-directed outcome, there’s a good chance they’re already engaging in self-directed play.

Many of the toys available today are intended for a specific purpose. Let’s consider, for example, a doll.  Sure, a child can embark on some imaginative play with it, but a doll will always be a doll.  The same goes for a small toy train or a plastic dinosaur.  This is not to say there is anything wrong with these toys, but the ways in which children can use them are limited by their nature.

Now let’s consider a cardboard tube.  The possibilities are endless!  The tube could be a telescope one minute and a megaphone the next.  It could be a log, a bridge, or something to guide a ball through.  Materials we offer children for self-directed play are simple.  Think balls, cardboard tubes, sticks, scarves, playdough…the list goes on.

When children embark on self-directed play, it’s important for adults to remember that the children are the ones calling the shots (within safe boundaries, of course!).  It’s our natural tendency to have pre-determined ideas of what the outcome of a certain activity should be.  We often, instinctively, feel the need to jump in and teach children the “right way” to do things.  Give yourself permission to step back.  When we observe the the way in which children discover their own outcomes, it can be magical to see the process from a new viewpoint.

How does self-directed play embrace Montessori ideals and benefit children?

  • It builds self confidence. By exploring on their own, children realize there is so much they can do for themselves. They make their own games with their own rules, and they feel successful.
  • It encourages independence. Isn’t our ultimate goal for children that they might be able to get along just fine without us? Self-directed play lets them experience independence from a young age, all while in a safe, prepared environment.
  • It stimulates imagination. Children can’t help but be creative during self-directed play. By giving them these opportunities, we are allowing them to flex their creative muscles; they will see possibilities no one else has imagined, and they will develop their own story lines as they play.
  • It teaches problem-solving. Coming up with one’s own rules naturally leads to problem solving. Children will have to figure out how to make something work the way they want it to.
  • It allows children to learn at their own pace. With self-directed play, there is no timeline and there are no benchmarks to meet. Kids have the opportunity to build on their own knowledge, day after day, in ways that make sense to them.
  • It cultivates internal motivation. Without adults defining the success of an activity, children will be compelled to find the innate joy in their play. They will naturally tend to challenge themselves to try new, innovating ideas, and they will find their own personal delight in doing so.
  • It develops social and communication skills. Children who engage in self-directed play with peers must interact with each other and in doing so learn a vast array of social negotiation skills like fairness, turn-taking, co-operation, understanding social rules, seeing and incorporating other points of views, a sense of ‘give and take’, patience, perseverance, and a sense of belonging.

Getting started at home

Consider these tips to encourage self-directed play in your home:

Materials/Toys should be simple.  As an added benefit, simple toys tend to be much easier to obtain and far less expensive (and often free!).  If possible, toys should be made of natural materials.  Think wood, fabric, and items found in nature; avoid plastic if possible.  As mentioned above, collect toys that can be used for any number of possibilities.  Things like balls, scarves, blocks, boxes, sticks, or clay are great.  Some people like to collect trays of loose parts to leave out for children.  Loose parts trays might include pebbles, seashells, buttons, bits of string, pieces of tree bark…whatever looks (and feels) interesting!

Prepare the Environment Make sure children have a safe, open space in which to play.  Depending on your home and the weather, this could be your living room, backyard, or whatever space works for your family.  It’s important to make sure children have flexibility in their movement though, so make sure they can sit, stand, jump, roll, and explore!

Sit Back and Enjoy! Another great benefit to self-directed play is that because children can engage on their own, you are free to spend time checking off your own to-do list.  But feel free to sit nearby or even alongside your child if you wish.  Just remember to let them take the lead and explore their world and imagination.

See It in Action

The very best way to learn about Sunstone Montessori is to see it in action. We encourage you to visit our beautiful and spacious campus, take a tour, observe briefly in classrooms, learn about Montessori education, our programs, who we are, and what we do. Time is set aside at the end for questions and answers.

We look forward to sharing Sunstone with you!

Schedule a Tour




Independence and the Montessori Child

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” -Maria Montessori

Benefits of Cultivating Independence

You may already know that Montessori educators value and encourage independence in even their youngest students. We believe that nurturing this valuable character trait is both empowering and necessary.  In short, giving a child the gift of independence lets them know we value them and know they’re capable.  Children can grow up feeling empowered and safe in their abilities to make sound choices.  When we trust them, they learn to trust themselves, ultimately becoming happy and productive members of their communities.

Of course, this looks different at different ages.  Children birth to age six want to do things by themselves, while elementary aged children want to think for themselves.  Adolescents seek both physical and social independence while they tread the waters between childhood and adulthood.  It’s important to remind ourselves of these developmental stages, both as teachers and parents.

What Independence Means at School

In the earliest years at school, children focus on what we refer to as practical life skills. This may include learning to prepare simple snacks, putting on their own shoes or coats, or caring for classroom plants and animals.

Children are given endless opportunities to practice these skills both on their own and helping their friends.

Another facet of independence at a Montessori school involves choice within limits.  Children are able to decide what work they are interested in.

Teachers carefully prepare the classroom environment so that all choices are safe and desirable, but within those boundaries the child is free to explore.

As children get older (the elementary years and beyond), they must meet certain academic expectations.  Teachers use a variety of tools to help students work independently while still meeting their goals, including work plans and time management strategies.

Research becomes of great interest at this time, and children are given ample opportunity to deeply explore topics they choose.

How Parents Can Support This Work at Home

How can families continue the cultivation of independence in the home?  It all starts with a shift in the way we view our children’s capabilities.  They are often able to do much more than we realize, and with a little bit of modeling they tend to eagerly accept a challenge.  After all, our children want to do what we do, and if we give them the proper tools and support, they can begin practicing.

The chart below highlights some of the possibilities.  Think of this as an inspiring guide that highlights what children of various ages are typically capable of.  Giving our children tasks such as these builds their confidence while helping them learn how to be contributing members of a community – in this case, their family.

Looking Forward

One of the easiest ways to encourage independence in our children is to be more aware in the moment.  Though it can be a challenge to slow down and let them move at their pace (like when they insist on zipping up their own coat while we’re rushing out the door to get to work), it’s going to benefit them in the long run.  Building a little extra time into our schedules can help!  Some little changes we can make to embed this value into our days:

  • Send your child to put their shoes on 10 minutes before you’d like to leave.
  • Leave child-friendly cleaning supplies within reach.
  • Put pre-portioned or easy-to-prepare snacks on low shelves.
  • Turn spills and messes into opportunities.
  • Let your child pick out their own clothes. For younger children especially, some weather appropriate guidance is just fine. Enjoy the creative fashion statements that ensue.

See It in Action

The very best way to learn about Sunstone Montessori is to see it in action. We encourage you to visit our beautiful and spacious campus, take a tour, observe briefly in classrooms, learn about Montessori education, our programs, who we are, and what we do. Time is set aside at the end for questions and answers.

We look forward to sharing Sunstone with you!

Schedule a Tour




Foster Creative Thinking at Home With This Easy Art Project

Creative thinking contributes to the invention of new ideas, perspectives, concepts,
principles, and products in our society. If creativity is to be exemplified later in life by adults, it
must be fostered in children first. There are many different forms of creativity, such as creative
thinking, creative writing, and creative arts (Richard, 1993).
Nurturing creativity at home can be easy.
Here is a simple art project you can try anytime with your child.
All you will need is:
  • drawing paper
  • a few magazines with images of real people, animals, or plants (ie., National Geographic, Scientific American, Seed Catalogs)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • an assortment of pencils (color if you wish)

Choose an image from the magazines that appeals to you. Cut it out of the magazine and then cut the image it in half from top to bottom. Glue one half of the image on a piece of drawing paper then use the pencils to draw the other half. You will be amazed at the results! Here are a few that our students did:


Richard, P.W.(1993). The logic of creative and critical thinking. American Behavioral Scientist, 37(1), 21-39.

Logical and Natural Consequences

Raising children is a beautiful, surprising, heart-warming, and challenging adventure.  But what’s the best way to navigate through the challenging parts?  As humans, we all make mistakes, and are constantly learning throughout our lives.  How might we best guide our children through their learning in a manner that is both gentle and effective?  It turns out we need a variety of strategies, but some work better than others.  In this blog post we highlight some of the most effective ways of helping your children learn from their mistakes.

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are whatever happens naturally as a result of a person’s action or inaction.  Natural consequences are not determined by an adult, they simply occur.  For example, if your child decides not to wear a coat outside in the winter, the natural consequence is that they will feel cold.  If they choose not to eat, they will feel hungry.  No negative parental intervention is necessary, and in fact, should not be applied.  When your child experiences a natural consequence, chances are the experience itself will teach them what they need to learn.  We need not remind them that we had suggested the coat or breakfast.

To summarize, natural consequences happen on their own.  There is no adult control in these situations, and the consequence itself is not planned, but rather a natural outcome of interacting with the physical world.

Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are implemented by an adult (typically a parent or teacher), and they are directly related to the action of the child.  For example, if your child spills their snack on the floor, you might remind them where the dustpan is and ask them to clean it up.

What’s really important is to remember the intention and structure of a logical consequence: it is not a punishment, but rather a gentle learning opportunity that is directly connected to the behavior.  The goal is not to have the child repent for having done something wrong, but to give them an opportunity to recognize an error that they may avoid in the future.  We must be careful and avoid shaming the child, and to present the situation in such a way that the child is not defined by the behavior.  The behavior is simply something the child did that we would like to teach them not to do.

Do These Consequences Really Work?

Yes…most of the time.

There are times we should absolutely step in and not allow natural consequences to occur.  These instances include:

  • When your child is in danger
  • When someone else is in danger
  • When a natural consequence encourages the child to repeat the behavior or if they don’t seem to mind the consequence (it’s clear the natural consequence is not having the desired effect). For example, sneaking lots of candy might be fun!  The natural health consequences are not immediate and therefore might not make a big impression right away.

Natural and logical consequences are empowering for children.  They leave the child in control of the situation and provide valuable learning opportunities.

A How-to Guide

Perhaps the most important idea to remember is that natural and logical consequences are not punishments, but rather an opportunity for the child to learn more positive behaviors.  When observing a natural consequence that might help the child learn from an experience, resist the urge to step in and help your child.  The natural consequence may not be pleasant, but if it’s appropriate and not hurting them, it’s okay to let them learn from it.

When you are trying to determine an appropriate logical consequence, it’s important to keep it age/developmentally appropriate.  If your 2 year old takes out all their toys and makes a big mess in their room, they will likely need your help as they work to clean up.  A 7 year old, however, is probably capable of doing the job themselves.

Make sure that any logical consequence is directly related to the behavior you are trying to correct.  Some examples:

Behavior Logical Consequence
Your 5 year old was dancing while eating and spilled yogurt all over the floor. Walk them through the process of cleaning up.  Bring them to retrieve a bucket and sponge, help them fill it with soapy water, and demonstrate 1 or 2 wipes before letting them do the rest.
Your 6 year old was asked to clean up their blocks before bedtime but did not do so. Let your child know you will be putting the blocks in a box and they may not use them for a certain amount of time.  You might put the box in your closet for a few days.
Your 8 year old was playing baseball in the front yard where you had asked them not to and they broke a neighbor’s window. Help your child find ways to earn money so that they may help replace the window.
Your 12 year old chose to play video games instead of doing their homework.  They don’t seem phased by the natural consequence of having their teacher notice. Let your child know they may play video games when their homework is finished, but not before.
Your newly-driving 17 year old did not return home by the agreed-upon time. Make sure your child knows this consequence ahead of time, but perhaps they will not be allowed to use the car for a specific amount of time.

A few final points to keep in mind: natural and logical consequences often take time and patience.  While they are typically the best course of action for building resilient children in the long run, only rely on them when you are in a position to fully commit.  If you give in halfway through, the teaching opportunity is lost.  It can also take time to come up with appropriate logical consequences, and with the realities of life, that’s not always a possibility.  Let’s imagine that your 5 year old spilled the yogurt as you were rushing out the door to get to an important meeting.  You may want to talk to your child as you wipe it up quickly and teach them how to mop later that afternoon.

Good luck!  As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.