How To Use Worry Dolls

Guatemalan Worry dolls - How to use worry dolls

What is a Worry Doll?

Worry dolls are small, mostly hand-crafted dolls that are originally from the highlands of Guatemala. They are sometimes called Guatemalan worry dolls or trouble dolls. They date back to Mayan culture and tradition.

Guatemalan Worry dolls - How to use worry dolls

Worry dolls are mostly hand-made. The size of the dolls can vary between half an inch and two inches. In Guatemala, artisans bind pieces of wood together or twist together short lengths of wire to create a frame for a torso, arms, legs, and a head. They wound colorful pieces of cloth and yarn around the frame to give the doll its shape. They also wound more yarn around the frame to create the head, hair, feet, and hands. To create the costumes, the artisans use scraps of traditional woven fabric. Sometimes, they also include traditional implements such as tiny woven baskets. Finally, they place the dolls in tiny wooden boxes or cloth pouches for sale. Guatemalan worry dolls are often sold in sets of 6 to 12 per box or pouch.

In western culture, worry dolls are mostly made of modern materials such as plastics, pressed paper, adhesive tape and colorful wool.

The aim of worry dolls is to help children deal with their worries by saying them out loud.  Worry dolls also encourage children to demonstrate that they are willing to let go of their worries before going to sleep.

Worry dolls also play a key role in modern pediatrics and child psychiatry. During a therapy session with children, some therapists offer a worry doll to the child as some kind of imaginary, but trustworthy “listener”. The worry doll, in turn, works for therapists, educators, and parents as a kind of “agent” between the child and an adult.

Guatemalan worry dolls are sold by the thousands in markets all over Guatemala. Each doll may appear different, as each is handmade.

Worry dolls are also popular as souvenirs. Tourists bring the dolls back to their home countries and people all over the world are now using them.

Worry dolls have slowly but surely undulated from the Guatemalan highlands to the world stage. They have become so popular that pop artists have started including them in their repertoire. Even brilliant singer, songwriter, and author Jimmy Buffett has written a book on them.

Trouble Dolls
A children’s book by Jimmy Buffett (Author), Savannah Jane Buffet (Author), Lambert Davis (Illustrator)

Get it on Amazon!

There’s even a horror movie about them.

Dangerous Worry Dolls (2007)
After finding a box of South American worry dolls, a woman brings them to life to seek revenge on the people who harmed her

Starring: Jessica Morris, Julia St. Clair, Dilio Nunez

Get it on Amazon!

Cat versions of the dolls are also available.

Worry Doll Cats

These are just like worry dolls, but instead of traditionally-dressed figures, the dolls are made to look like cats.
Get it on Amazon!

 How to Use a Worry Doll

A worry doll is used to help a person get rid of his worries and anxieties so he can sleep peacefully. Worry dolls are popular with children of all ages.

12 Super Cute Worry Dolls + 1 Free Guatemala Fabric Bag.
Get it on Amazon!

  1. A child feeling any kind of worry or anxiety holds a doll and tells the doll about his specific worry. His worry is then transferred to the doll.
  2. The worry doll is then placed under the pillow. Some children prefer to place the doll in a special wooden box or cloth pouch.
  3. Sometimes, the child caresses the doll’s tummy a few times so that his worries don’t hurt it in the morning.
  4. The child can then sleep tight, knowing that the doll is now doing the worrying for him.
  5. If a child has more than one worry, more dolls are needed as each doll deals with one fear. Other children, however, reuse their worry doll many times and tell all their worries to that particular doll.
  6. The child wakes up in the morning to find his worries have disappeared. Many parents remove the doll during the night. This gives further proof to the child that their worries are gone.


How to Make Worry Dolls

You can easily make your own Guatemalan worry doll. You don’t need to pick out an eye of a newt or carve out the heart of a frog. Instead, you can just use popsicle sticks, clothes pins, or pipe cleaners to form the frame for the doll. Wrap colorful yarn or shreds of any material around the doll to form the arms, torso, and legs. You can also use beads to make the head;  others use a piece of fabric.

Here’s a short video to show you how to make a Guatemalan worry doll.

If you would rather be planting a vegetable garden to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, Guatemalan worry dolls are readily available online. Below example is available on Amazon.

Worry Dolls in a Bag – One Dozen Bags

  • The package consists of 12 bags
  • Each bag contains 6  half-inch worry dolls and a copy of the Legend of Worry Dolls
  • Not only for kids. Also for parents!

Get it on Amazon!

Why Worry

Most adults will say that these worry dolls don’t really work. But there is certainly something deeply soothing about saying your worries out loud and putting them away. The physical act of talking to these Guatemalan worry dolls and putting them away really does help. It evokes a sense of control over the worrisome situation. The whole process reminds me of that old Dire Straits song “Why Worry”.

Have a listen.

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See also:

Children’s Books About Anxiety: Helping Your Anxious Child

4 Books to Help Your Child Overcome Back-to-School Anxiety

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