Eventually, I figured out that "bored" usually stands for an unmet need, and I refined it to tired, hungry or lonely. My new definition works better for both kids, they can usually identify one of the 3 issues, but it still doesn't always get us to resolution.
From Gordon Neufeld's blog aka "editorial page" one of his faculty, Jonas, writes a lovely perspective on seeing and handling a child's complaint of boredom. I'm going to try out his tactic of collecting and connecting. I'll bet it is the best "solution" yet.
Being Bored (read the full text here)
“Daddy, I am bored,” my six year-old son comes into my home office complaining. I have a feeling of déjà vu. I have heard this before. In fact all my children around this age have shown up with the very same expression: “Daddy, I am bored”. I used to think that they lacked for ideas of what to do. And so, I used to come up with at least a dozen suggestions. It never seemed to work though. My children left seemingly unsatisfied with my suggestions. I used to brush off my discomfort by remembering what I had read in popular psychology columns, that it was a good thing to be bored. As the years passed my two older home-schooled children are no longer in this stage. I never hear them complain about being bored. They seem to have found that never ceasing inner-well of creativity, filling them with endless curiosity. Yes, they show up at my home office, but more likely with precise questions like, ”What is a black hole?” or ”What is the difference between government and parliament?” or ”Why does a car have a gearbox?”
After studying the Neufeld paradigm I obtained words to many things I knew intuitively, and I also received confirmation of others things of which I was not fully certain. But I never understood the meaning of “Daddy, I am bored” until taking one of the Neufeld Distance Education courses.