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Home / Baby Annabell / Anxiety dolls: an age-old tradition to help ease little ones’ worries

Anxiety dolls: an age-old tradition to help ease little ones’ worries

Children often air their emotions through their doll roleplay, meaning therapy dolls for anxiety are a great way to investigate how they’re feeling during life changes or as they’re approaching major milestones. 

Here, we take a look at the history and tradition of worry dolls, before explaining why Baby Annabell makes a fantastic anxiety doll for modern-day parenting, particularly ahead of the new school year. 


A brief history of worry dolls

Worry dolls, or Muñeca Quitapena, are small hand-made dolls that originate from Guatemala. According to Guatemalan tradition, children share their concerns with the worry dolls before placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. The worry dolls take on the responsibility of the problem, freeing up the worrier and allowing them to sleep peacefully. By morning, the dolls are said to have gifted the child with the knowledge and wisdom needed to eliminate their worries. This belief originates from the legend of a Mayan princess named Ixmucane, who received a special gift from the sun god that allowed her to solve any problem that a person might worry about. The worry doll represents the princess and her wisdom.


Using therapy dolls for anxiety

While the tradition of worry dolls dates back to ancient times, their utility is recognised in modern paediatrics and child psychiatry. Using dolls in this way offers comfort to children, as they act as a trustworthy ‘listener’, guarding their worries and secrets without question. What’s more, the ritual of transferring worries on to a doll can be a great way for a child to manage anxieties that build up throughout the day and impact on a good night’s sleep. 


Baby Annabell as an anxiety doll 

At this time of year, when starting school for the first time, or returning for a new school term, it’s normal and natural for young children to feel anxious while they’re finding their feet. Here, a worry doll is a fantastic way to encourage your child to offload any concerns and express how they’re feeling. A worry doll can become an important member of the family and your child could use any doll they’re fond of. Baby Annabell, Baby Alexander, Baby Leah and Big Annabell make particularly comforting anxiety dolls thanks to their lifelike features, robust sizes and squidgy bodies – just perfect for cuddles! Have your little one confide all their feelings in their doll just before bedtime – encourage them by asking questions like ‘what are you most looking forward to about school?’ and ‘is anything making you feel a little bit worried?’. As they answer your prompting questions and tell all to their Baby Annabell, you might want to gently validate their feelings. Really listen to what they’re saying and tell them you know it can be hard making new friends or getting to know new places. The idea is that once they’ve spoken to their worry doll, they can fall asleep easily knowing their worries have been taken away. The next morning, speak openly with your little one once more and see how their feelings have eased! Just like magic!


Fostering good mental health habits

Establishing a new routine at nursery or school involves a lot of change and stimulation, which can evoke feelings of anxiety in young children. By encouraging your little ones to express their worries out loud (or whisper them) to Baby Annabell, you’ll be helping them to foster a habit of talking about their feelings rather than bottling them up – something which will serve them throughout their lives. If they need a little extra comfort, suggest they ‘squeeze the worry away’ by giving Baby Annabell a huge hug, releasing tension and helping them feel more relaxed.  


Exploring new scenarios through roleplay

Through doll roleplay, children can create a ‘safe zone’ to test out activities and situations they may feel unsure of, in a comfortable setting. Whether practicing conversations with Baby Annabell to increase their confidence and social skills, or familiarising themselves with a school-related scenario, roleplaying with an anxiety doll can help children feel surer of themselves in new environments. 


Looking for more helpful applications for doll play? Discover how Baby Annabell can help promote a good bedtime routine