According to legend, if you tell your troubles to a Guatemalan worry doll then place it under your pillow, your worries will be gone by morning. These small, colorful dolls date back to Mayan traditions. They’re typically about one inch tall, made from a small piece of wood and dressed in scraps of clothing and yarn.
More than a Legend
Worry dolls combine everything I’m passionate about…legend, story, craft, and stress relief. But a worry doll’s ability to reduce anxiety is based in more than just myth and magic. Many psychologists believe that putting problems into words can blunt their emotional impact. Studies suggest that verbalizing an emotion may activate the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, which then suppresses the areas of the brain that produce emotional pain.
Talk Away Worries
According to UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman, PhD, psychologists who practices talk-therapy have realized the peculiar power of language. “There’s this idea that putting bad feelings into words can help wash worries away,” says Lieberman.
So the next time your child is feeling anxious, encourage them to take out their worry dolls and start talking.
FEATURED CRAFT: WORRY DOLLS
Wooden Clothes Pin with a flat, round top (found in craft stores)
1 Garbage Bag Twist-Tie per Doll
Approximately 20 feet of yarn in various colors
Pipe cleaner (optional)
Fabric Scraps (optional)
- Wrap the garbage bag twist tie around the center of the clothes pin to create arms. Fold down the edges to create “hands.”
- Tie a long piece of yarn around the center of the clothes pin and knot. Leave 2-3 inches of yarn off the end of the knot.
- Begin wrapping the yarn around the middle of the clothes pin. Then wrap it up and around and down each arm. Continue wrapping down to the legs.
- To create “pants” wrap each individual leg. To create a skirt, wrap both legs.
- Once the body is wrapped the way you like it, cut the yarn leaving about 2-3 extra inches. Tie this to the extra piece you left at the beginning to finish off the project (keep the knot in the back of the doll).
- Decorate your doll with markers, yarn and pipe cleaners. Color in the feet with markers.
Note: Do not go all the way to the end of the legs or arms. Leave a small amount bare so the yarn doesn’t slip off. You might need to do several layers of wrapping.
Note: If you want to use different colors, just tie a new piece of yarn to the original, snip the edges and keep wrapping.
Variation: Glue fabric scraps to the clothes pin instead of wrapping the yarn. This is easier for younger children.