A month into summer, and your kid is bored. B-O-R-E-D. The bike has a flat, the grass is soggy with sprinkler excess, nobody will be banker at Monopoly, the kid down the street is spending the summer with his dad in Wisconsin, and why won't you be reasonable and let him have all your quarters for a day at the video parlor?
You can safely ignore that last one (it's not true that all the other kids are doing it, despite proclamations to that effect), but chances are that you can't entirely ignore your kid. Left to his own devices, he may, after all, find some truly creative things to do -- like calling total strangers on the telephone or hunting rats in the sewer.
What you need, then, are some activities that can be done independently, or at least with minimal supervision. This means large, open-ended projects -- like building a tree house or putting on a neighborhood play. Or, for those with less in the way of long- range planning skills, open-minded construction materials -- play dough, Legos or a load of scrap wood and some large nails.
Here, then, are some other ideas for your child's leisure days: ROOM WEAVING -- "Steven Caney's Playbook" (Workman, 1975) recommends this for almost any age on a rainy day. Tie string, yarn, thread, rope or ribbon together to make a few long pieces. Attach these to various places around the room -- doorknobs, drawer handles, bedposts, chair legs. Then tie strings or whatever you're using between these strings. Keep going until you run out of string. Can you still get into your room? How? SOAP PAINT -- Mix two cups of soap flakes with 1/2 cup of liquid starch (not spray starch), and add a little powdered tempera or food coloring. This stuff works like finger paint and looks like whipped cream, so be sure to tell little ones not to eat it. It goes best on construction paper, but any kind of paper will do in a pinch. HOT CRAYONS -- This one requires some supervision. Place a piece of aluminum foil on a griddle and put it on the stove over very low heat (that's your job). Using crayons stripped of their paper covers, "draw" on the foil -- the crayons melt as they draw. Try using the side of the crayon, or mixing colors -- gold and copper look spectacular. You can lift your picture off by putting a piece of white typing paper over the foil, pressing down lightly, and peeling it off. CHANGE WORDS -- This is a tough game for older kids. The object is to take one word and, changing one letter at a time, make it into another word. Every time you change a letter, though, you need to make a new word. Here's how to change cat to dog: cat, cot, dot, dog. A much harder one is changing beer to wine: beer, bear, beat, bent, lent, lint, line, wine. Try these: Bus to car; cold to warm; tip to toe; town to city; ring to hand; bead to bird; rain to fair; lost to home; sick to well; some to many. TONGUE TWISTERS -- Bet you can't say these fast three times: * A schmoo slyly slowly shuffled a snorkle full of slush. * Sally Simpson sold the seashells Sandy saw sitting on the seashore. * Six long slim slick sycamore saplings. STRAW AND CLIP BUILDING -- Here's how to transform a box of straws into a construction set. To connect two straws, open a paper clip and slightly bend out each of the two loop ends. Then stick one of the two ends in one straw (it should fit snugly), and the other loop into another straw. You can bend the paper clip to whatever angle you need for your construction. BUG BOX -- A cheap and easy place to store interesting bugs can be made from a quart or half-gallon milk container. Cut "windows" in the sides, and then cover the whole gizmo with an old nylon stocking. Be sure to put in some greenery from the bug's habitat. A good book for this activity is: Seymour Simon's "Pets in a Jar; Collecting and Caring for Small Wild Animals" (Puffin). NICKEL NUDGE -- Tilt your head back and try to get a nickel off the end of your nose by wrinkling your nose. No sneezing allowed. (It's tougher -- and funnier -- than you think.) MUSIC MACHINE -- The Children's Museum in Boston suggests this one: Take a wire coat hanger and, holding it upside down, tie a long piece of string to both ends. Put the loop around your neck, and start looking for things to listen to. As you find them, knock the hanger against them and hold the string to both ear openings. The sound travels through the wire and up the string.