Worry dolls, also known as trouble dolls, originate from Guatemala in South America. It is thought they were first created by the Ancient Mayans who used the dolls as a remedy for helping their children sleep soundly, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations and is still used today. Today most worry dolls are still handmade in South America.
Although worry dolls have their roots in Ancient Mayan legend their methods resonate with modern psychology as talking therapies are well known to help alleviate worries and anxiety. Children may also find it easier to confide in a doll than a parent or friend, meaning they get to say their worries out loud which is one of the best ways of helping them process what it is they are feeling and begin to find solutions while they sleep. Handing over their worries to the doll also means they are no longer responsible for them.
The Ancient Mayan Legend
The story goes that in ancient times there was much to worry about, as there still is today in Guatemala, and so the Mayans came up with a special remedy to help alleviate their children’s worries and ensure they would get a good night’s sleep.
The origin of the story of the worry doll is thought to come from the Mayan Princess Lxmucane who was given special powers from the Sun God. She was given great wisdom and the ability to solve any problem that a person could worry about.
Little textile dolls were given to children representing the princess and her wisdom. Children could tell the dolls their worries, verbalising and processing their thoughts, and letting go of their worries, handing them over to the doll. They could then place the doll under their pillow as they slept. By morning their worries would be gone as the dolls would have gifted them the wisdom required to eliminate their worries.
Where Worry Dolls Come From Today
Today worry dolls are used around the world as a fantastic way to help children and even adults deal with their worries.
Today most worry dolls are still handcrafted in Guatemala using traditional methods. Buying traditional Guatemalan worry dolls not only links them more closely to their Mayan roots but also supports Guatemalan communities. Traditional dolls tend to have a wooden or wire frame with scraps of traditional woven fabric for the clothing. As they are handcrafted each worry doll is unique.
You can also find and buy worry dolls that are made elsewhere and may be made from plastic or other non-traditional materials. Worry dolls are also simple to make yourself at home using a traditional style wooden clothes peg or a stick and some scraps or fabric or wool.
Next Up: How Worry Dolls Help Kids Deal With Anxiety and Stress