By Sally Anne Garland, author and illustrator of Stuck Inside
“I’m bored!” is perhaps the most common phrase a parent will hear, and with it usually comes the unsettling feeling that all sorts of mischief is about to ensue.
Our good little angels are about to be magically transformed into little imps and pixies, responsible for all sorts of domestic naughtiness. Yet should we dread and view our children’s boredom so negatively?
Being bored as a child is a common state of mind that brings with it a mayhem of different emotions – a powerful brew of seemingly destructive feelings such as frustration, anxiety and restlessness. Yet out of these same feelings something quite magical can grow — imagination and make believe — the trick, is to harness its force for good.
My sister and I would spend a few weeks during the summer holidays with my Grandparents. They had several dogs but there was one stand out character called Toby, who I based the little dog in my book, Stuck Inside on.
Being a terrier, he would continually pace and plot a way outside — often achieving this with surprising feats of ingenuity. “He’s like a little Houdini!” my Nan would say. I realise now there was a truth in what she said — he was indeed like an escape artist, seemingly magicking himself out of the shackles of boredom.
Whilst developing the idea of Stuck Inside I was also reminded of some of my favourite childhood books that began in a similar way, with characters who were either bored, displaced or recuperating. Somehow I knew the mundane opening chapters of these books were only a portent of curiosity — a magic portal — a way into a far more exciting adventure.
If Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were not restlessly exploring their uncle’s big, empty house, would they have opened the wardrobe door that led to Narnia?
Had Tom not endured weeks of boredom at his aunt and uncle’s house, would he of crept out of his bed to find the Midnight Garden?
If a bored Max hadn’t wreaked havoc, would he have been sent to bed with no supper and sailed away to where the wild things were?
Would the Darling’s children have flown away with Peter Pan had they been quite content at bedtime? J. M. Barrie’s book is perhaps the embodiment of bored children looking for adventure and Never Neverland the place they seek.
I wrote Stuck Inside whilst we were in the first Covid-19 lockdown, confronting the challenges of not only the virus itself but also our children’s mental well-being. It seemed boredom was our greatest nemesis however, on reflection, I think it was more our ally.
Like a big, grey lumbering ogre it chases our children through danger, to find higher, safer places, and stops them being caught and dragged down by the real monster — stagnation. A child that is never restlessly bored or seeking fun is perhaps a more worrying concern.
The tedium of being stuck inside makes our children yearn and drives them forward to seek better things, even in the most restrictive circumstances. Without it a child can miss out on important life skills like confidence, self-reliance, resilience and creativity.
Give a child a dull, brown, boring old stick and often or not — once they have first fashioned it into a potentially dangerous weapon — they will imagine it is a magic wand.
Free Resources are available from the Sunbird Kids Books website! https://sunbirdkidsbooks.com/activity-sheets-uk/
About the Author: Sally Anne Garland grew up in the Highlands of Scotland. After studying Illustration and Graphic Design at Edinburgh College of Art she settled in Glasgow, where she currently lives with her partner and their son.
Her new picture book Stuck Inside (ISBN:978-1-5037-5866-7) is published by Sunbird Books – a new publisher launching on 6th May. For further information, visit www.sunbirdkidsbooks.com
Sunbird Books is the home for innovative and original books for children. From board books to storybooks (and everything in between!), our titles represent strong, lively, and diverse voices that reflect children’s realities and feed their imaginations while nurturing up-and-coming writers and illustrators from around the world.,
Sally Anne Garland’s list of recommended books for mischievous, bored children that need a magical adventure.
The Snow Lion – Jim Helmore and Richard Jones
Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce
Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie
Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
Northern Lights – Philip Pullman
The House With Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson
A Way Past Winter – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The Land Of Roar – Jenny McLachlan