Worry Dolls Are a Staple for Ethnic Types of Stores Anywhere

Scott Smith Sep 22, 2023
8 People Read

(This article is about people who want to learn about and perhaps buy a worry doll.  If you are a retailer/reseller, click here for wholesale buying info). 


1) What are Worry Dolls?

2) Varieties

3) How they are made

4) Further therapeutic relief from your worries

5) Apps for Virtual Digital Worry Dolls on Apple Store and Google Play Store

What are Worry Dolls?

“Worry dolls” (occasionally referred to as Trouble Dolls) is the name of a classification of hand-made dolls, that are traditionally and currently made by Mayan, Incan, and Aztec peoples of the Americas.

Worry dolls are believed by many people in these Indigenous cultures, to traditionally have helped cope with stressful situations. To deal with your worries for the day, you simply ask your worry doll for help when you go to bed at night and put the doll under your pillow. One doll for each worry. As legend has it, this will help you be relieved of your worries as they vanish into your dreams and are gone when you wake up. Children may put many dolls each night under their pillow at bedtime representing each of their many worries.  

Mayan people believed in the Goddess Ixmucane, one of 13 creator Gods. She was a maternal figure and worry dolls were made in her honor. She was believed to be able to divinely alleviate their problems. 

As they have become popularized in western culture, these same beliefs have been inherited. I have been selling them for many years and they are now a “classic item.” They sell very consistently well, year after year. And they always will




Worry dolls range in height from half an inch to three inches. 


There are bigger dolls made in the same way, using the same methods,  and from the same types of components, but they aren’t worry dolls. They are too big to tuck under your pillow at night, so they don't pass at least one test, of being considered a worry doll.  


Many folks, of course, just buy dolls because they like dolls. Because these native-made dolls are so cute and unique, many doll lovers just buy them for their doll collection. And not because of any special powers they have.


A picture containing toy, doll, indoor, stuffed

Description automatically generated     A hand holding a couple of dolls

Description automatically generated with low confidence  A picture containing indoor, wearing, hat

Description automatically generated   A picture containing doll, toy, footwear

Description automatically generated


One thing all these dolls do have in common is that they have a distinctive handmade, or homemade look. The native Ikat fabric used for their outfits gives them an ethnic look which many people love.


Although they are the most popular to buy as individual dolls, they are also fabricated into earrings, key chains, headbands, magnets, bags, barrettes, and other accessories, and this also generates lots of enthusiasm from worry doll aficionados. From what I can see, the most popular worry doll accessory is a Peruvian full headband with dolls fully attached and spread out over the top of the band. ( picture of this one, not included at the moment)


  A group of people in clothing

Description automatically generated with low confidence A group of dolls

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceA picture containing fabric

Description automatically generatedA picture containing text, indoor

Description automatically generated


In the highlands of central Guatemala, the tiny half-inch version is made and then packaged into little cloth pouches with a drawstring cinch; or in a yellow painted simple oval shaped thin wooden box with a removable lid that fits over the top. 

A piece of paper with a brief description accompanying them is typically inserted to help you remember what they are for and what they mean. 

A picture containing cloth, indoor, blanket, colorful

Description automatically generated A picture containing text

Description automatically generated  A picture containing sky, different, several

Description automatically generated A picture containing indoor, items, arranged

Description automatically generated


Some companies sell these mini worry dolls to home-based crafters in bags of 144, for many great DIY projects. 


A group of colorful crystals

Description automatically generated with low confidence



Here is a picture of how you can sometimes find the 2-inch tall worry dolls, also packaged in pouches and boxes. They normally contain 5 dolls. This gives you a nice way to protect and keep them safe. 


A group of dolls

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceA picture containing text

Description automatically generated




Here are some pictures of other minor variations on the basic theme that you can sometimes find, although less common. You can see some ones that were made with a more brownish skin tone, some with Panama Straw Hats, a couple with a baby as a refrigerator magnet, and some carry water jugs.  Some have pants but most have a dress.


A group of dolls

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceA picture containing colorful, thread

Description automatically generated  A picture containing colorful, fabric

Description automatically generated A group of dolls

Description automatically generatedA picture containing colorful, thread

Description automatically generated


How they are made

Worry dolls are made from materials such as sticks, wood, cardboard, string, wool, wire, and cotton fabric pieces left over as remnants from the fabric used to make clothing and accessories.  Usually, these dolls are made from traditional Indigenous fabrics, created on a traditional hand-made back-strap loom. In Guatemala, this fabric is called Jaspeado, or Jaspe for short.

Further relief from your worries beyond dolls

Talk therapy is another good option for many people to use along with their worry dolls. A therapist will be able to show you the tools and techniques that can help reduce anxiety and manage more intense emotions.

Research has shown that talking about your emotions can relieve any emotional distress.  Speaking out about our emotions can reduce how intense they are. Our emotions will not become so wrapped up in worry and anxiety that they are difficult to express. This is why many child psychiatrists have introduced worry dolls or some variant of this process to their practice.  The doll can be used to establish contact between the child, their psychiatrist, and their parent.


Furthermore, these dolls shouldn’t get automatically thrown out just because someone grows up. They are kept and collected by adults too. People have many stories about finding their worry dolls in the attic and using them to help them sleep better. Both adults and children vent their fears and frustrations to this little dolly. Why not? They might be concerned about a neighbor, a sick family member, or a big exam coming up. This is one way they can with the doll.

Therapists find that it is more effective to voice your concern than to deny you have it. Your little doll will help you to remember that

Mexican Jewelry Set. Mexican Artisanal Jewelry. Traditional image 1

Not my style necklace but it's very creative. Get it on Etsy.


Here is an apolitical secular organization that does some great work to help out the poor people in Guatemala who make these dolls. (interesting point - note the traditional skirts and blouses that the kids are wearing. It's great to see they are still wearing traditional clothing. This helps keep the traditions alive for their culture. But strong forces are pulling them towards contemporary western dress).  


A picture containing wooden, sweet, wood, colorful

Description automatically generated