My 6-year-old won’t go into some rooms in our house alone, won’t ride in the car without car-sick bracelets and forces me to watch television every night after she goes to bed so the sound drowns out any house noises. We’re dealing with anxiety over here, and it has been a struggle to find ways to talk with her about her fears in a way that doesn’t freak her out.
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I recently went to the library and checked out just about every book on anxiety and came across a gem called Silly Billy by Anthony Brown. The story is about a boy who worries a lot at night until his grandmother introduces him to worry dolls which he can tell his worries to to make his worries go away.
This book was perfect for my 6 year old. We had an illuminating discussion about our worries after we read it, and she shared with me stories from night that she had never told me (like when Grandma and Grandpa stayed the night, and she thought she saw Grandpa’s hat moving by itself at night!).
I highly recommend the book with one caveat. The title! It is not SILLY to worry. That annoys me. I want my daughter to feel okay about her worries and feel heard and not feel like she is silly for worrying! I downplayed the title a lot when I read it to my girls.
The book even has a nice snippet of information about the history and cultural use of worry dolls.
Guatemalan Worry Dolls
Worry dolls are also called trouble dolls and originate from Guatemala. You tell your worry to the doll and put it under your pillow. The worry doll takes the worry from you and helps you sleep more peacefully.
When I was younger, I had a set of worry dolls that I used to put under my pillow, and I loved them. They were so cute, and it gave me some comfort to tell my worries to them even though I never believed they actually would take away my worries.
You can buy worry dolls on Amazon for cheap! I’m planning on getting some for my daughter to see if she wants to use them at night to make her feel better.
Worry Dolls Lesson and Project
Book and Discussion
After we read and discussed the book, I shared with the girls pictures of real worry dolls and talked about how they were made. We also found Guatemala on the globe and discussed the history of worry dolls a little bit.
On the last page of the book, there are lots of pictures of worry dolls. I asked the girls to describe them. We talked about the bright colors, varied lines, and the patterns used on the worry dolls. Then, we each painted a pattern of our choosing on a piece of 8.5×11″ card stock.
Make a Worry Doll
After we made the patterns, I drew a worry doll shape and cut it out. I would normally let my daughter do her own, but I took the easy way out this time. (I know, I know.)
The girls then added googly eyes and used sharpies to draw on the face. My 3yo then drew letters all over hers, because she loves writing letters.
They each glued on strings with simple white glue for the hair. My 6yo could do this on her own, but my 3yo needed some help.
After they were done, we picked some fabric from Nana’s stash of fabric scraps to make clothes! My 6yo didn’t want to cover up her pattern so she ended up choosing not to clothe it. My 3yo gave her a nice beige shirt and skirt.
Overall, this was very a helpful lesson for my family. Since we made the dolls, we’ve used them to talk about emotions and worries, and this has opened up a deeper conversation with my anxious child about her fears.
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