Q. Help! What do I do with a 4-year-old during the summer? We have no children in my neighborhood, and my son is so bored he is driving me crazy. I have a 10-month-old daughter who also needs my attention.

He has a swing set and numerous trucks, shovels, etc., for outside play, but he only will play outside when I am with him.

I take him occasionally to visit friends with children and to parks and playgrounds, and he will attend a week-long summer session at his nursery school soon. But after that, I am his only diversion.

A. You have two choices. You can try to run a business-as-usual household--and this means more fussing than performance--or you can consider this your annual R & R. If soldiers need rest and relaxation, parents certainly do.

Remember. This is summertime. Let the living be easy.

Forget about the projects you planned--and, to the extent that you can, forget about the cleaning and sewing and laundry and marketing. This is your chance to make time for your children. In the process, they will be much easier to care for.

It is also the time for realism. There is no way your little boy is going to be able to entertain himself with trucks and shovels and swings for more than 20 minutes or so. A child needs to have a sense of accomplishment and excitement, just as his parents do. That means he has to learn new skills and have new activities, so he'll have something to think about when he's shoveling in the sandbox.

If you expect him to spend a couple of hours in the backyard, you'll have to go with him. You'll like it more if you put yourselves in bathing suits and get under the hose or turn on the sprayer. Water play has an immediate calming effect on a child--and a mother, too. And it's a great way to cut down on laundry.

You can garden here; you can mend; you can strip furniture or wash the car. Or you can read, just as you would at the beach. If you would feel guilty for not working, remind yourself that taking care of children is work, even if you're getting a suntan.

And you don't have to stay home, either. A short adventure every day is almost a necessity with young children. You can go to the library for story hour, while you and the baby catch up on the latest magazines. Or go to the woods with your children, taking the heaviest phone book you have to press wildflowers (but not stems) between the pages. Choose plentiful ones, so they're not endangered, and store the book in a dry place until Christmas. A few flowers glued to paper and tucked into a yard-sale picture frame makes a dandy present for doting grandparents.

If you have a car--or a friend with a car--there are forays to Salvation Army and other thrift shops that intrigue almost any child. There is nearly always a toy, and if you're lucky, some blocks. Both wooden and plastic blocks clean up nicely in the washing machine.

It's a good time to change your shopping habits, if only temporarily, by using the supermarket just for a quick trip for staples with the rest picked up at ethnic groceries and roadside stands and especially the Maine Avenue wharf. The conchs and squid and clams and carp are awesome to a child, and so are the crabs.

What you're looking for are activities you enjoy, so your children will have a good time too. Boredom is catching--but so is fun.

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