When the wait for a doctor becomes l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g, it's especially hard on a child.

It's harder still on the parent trying to keep the child amused -- and sitting still.

Dorothy Rich is president of Washington's Home and School Institute, a nonprofit organization that has specialized in learning to use everyday moments to enhance children's learning.

She can't understand why medical waiting rooms -- especially waiting rooms in clinics and hospitals -- don't provide a few simple tools and devices that will not only keep the waiting child busy but also teach some of the rules of good health.

In an outline prepared for doctors, clinics and hospitals caring for children, she suggests, for example:The use of brief TV videos showing how children and their families can practice good health and safety habits.A cupboard of paper, crayons and other materials designed to have chidren illustrate what they've seen in the videos.

There are many other possibilities.

"The waiting problem is particularly a problem for poor families," she says. "They're always taking a child to 'the clinic' and sitting there all afternoon. Why not use the time for a good purpose?"