When your child scuffs his shoe on the chair, mumbles about dumb reruns on televison and asks to see a movie, go to King's Dominion, buy some pet rocks or get a shirt with an alligator on it, like all the other kids, you are listening to a very bored child.
It's a Catch-22 situation.
If you don't give in, the child stays bored, but if you do, the joys fade fast, complaints escalate and then the ante is upped.
Boredom, like any other malady, has to be dealt with before it happens. This doesn't mean a shopping binge, a television in his room or King's Dominion before he has had time to think about it, but offering a different kind of entertainment. A child needs to be intrigued so much by the world around him that he will invest a part of himself in whatever he does.
Here are some things that will help. INSIDE ANYWHERE
A pair of scissors. They have a relentless fascination. Keep a pair in any room where you don't mind finding snippets of paper on the floor, because they are inevitable. It's a matter of standards. Personally ours are pretty low, but then, so is the amount of boredom. KITCHEN
A sandwich. Peanut butter has a new and wonderful taste when your child smears it on a piece of bread and runs it under the broiler. Have him remove it after it bubbles, but before it burns -- a very short span of time. Use no jelly.
A facial. Have your child give a facial to any piece of copper you have. To make the mask, have him combine 1 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup vinegar. This should become a stiff paste, to be patted thickly on the copper. The facial turns a lovely verdigris and dissolves almost all of the tarnish in about 10 minutes. The copper should then be rubbed to a sheen, with emphasis on any dark spots, and then rinsed and finally shined with a dry cloth. Any mirror brings a certain satisfaction to a child -- even if it's just the bottom of a copper pot. BATHROOM
A fantasy. The same old jar of soap bubbles you had around when your child was four is still good for 15 minutes of dreaming as she waves the ring through the air like a wand. This even may inspire your child to blow the bubbles in a bath, a place not generally associated with a child's free will. OUTSIDE THE CAR
Books (to have and to hold). Go to the Salvation Army or your nearest second-hand book store, give your child $1.50 and let him be. He will buy however many books he can get for it, but the choices should be his alone. That's an adventure in itself, and then there are still the books to read. BACK YARD
A knotted rope for climbing or a big tire for swinging, if you have a strong branch to hang it from. Anyone can have a gym set. SIDEWALK
A box of colored chalk, oddly enough. This is for drawing pictures on the sidewalk. Expect your child to draw either ribald pictures, which he quickly scratches out or embellishes beyond recognition, or a picture of your least favorite neighbor, by name and for all to see. This will not be scratched out unless you do it yourself (quickly). Somehow none of these pictures are nearly as much fun to draw on paper, indoors, or without an audience -- preferably another nine-year-old. Even a little sister or a dog will do.
A pair of stilts. To make them, use two five- to six-foot lengths of 2" x 2" and two six-inch lengths of 2" by 4". The six-inch blocks will be bolted to the uprights, as footrests, 18" above the ground, or lower if the child is less than four feet tall. Before assembling, trim the lower corner off each block to avoid scraped shins and pre-drill the holes. These should be drilled from what will be the outside of the sticks into the inside of the blocks. It's best to use two holes for each stick -- the upper ones to fit a 4" lag screw, and the lower ones for a 3 1/2" lag screw: shorter to accommodate the trimmed corner. Also, wax the threads for easier turning and use washers, so the pressure won't split the wood. Tighten the lagscrews with a wrench.
This wood is fairly rough, so you will want to sand it lightly and either paint it or apply polyurethane, but the top of the footrest must remain rough so the feet don't slip.
And if your child still says there is nothing to do but watch television, have him clean his bureau drawers. First he will find a dozen ways to keep busy before he starts, and then he will find at least a dozen things in the drawers to entertain him that have been long lost.