Don't worry, be happy.
Here at After Alice we have been invaded by a friendly horde of colourful critters. Sorgenfressers or Worry Eaters have entered our lives and taken over our warehouse with the diplomacy and delicacy of an impatient baby elephant. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Based on the German animation by Gerd Hahn, these cuddly creatures have become a unique toy for helping children deal with worries, anxieties and fears. Advocated for some time by teachers and psychologists as a waste bin for problems, Worry Eaters have been effectively used in hospitals, schools, and wherever there are children and worries.
Following some mentions from happy After Alice customers on Instagram and Facebook, we decided to write this blog piece to extol the wonders of Mary, Flint, Pomm, Saggo and the rest of the gang. To spread the word. At After Alice we recognise that sometimes children can overthink and find it hard to unwind, so a toy that can help reassure and comfort is a real blessing.
First choose your Worry Eater
For most people this is the easiest thing. Take a look at the whole herd. It is a bit like choosing a puppy. Within a few moments you know which one it has to be, your eye keeps being drawn back to the same cheerful face. Some Worry Eaters remind us of animals, others of aliens or some special place in between. Be reassured. They are all very soft and cuddly. Fond of wearing bright colours and stripes and they are always very, very hungry.
Worry Eaters come in a smaller size (junior) or a larger size (classic). We also have some mini ones on keyrings for on-the-go trouble munching (perfect for a school bag, or to tuck discretely in a pocket). Lastly, we have just introduced some Worry Eater pencils cases to the family, available for worry munching throughout the school day.
For a mouth, all the Junior, Classic and pencil case Worry Eaters have a fully functioning zip. This results in a very neat little row of teeth. My daughter delights in the endless expressions and variations she can wangle out of her toy just by experimenting with the zip. The keyring Worry Eaters have a velcro mouth, but they can still chomp down worries. This truly is a toy with a bit more bite.
A cuddly filing cabinet for worries
There are various ways you and your child can use the Worry Eater. The simplest way is for the child to write down the worry (or drawing of a worry for younger child) and feed it into the creature's open mouth. Zip the worry up.
Now some parents will go on night duty here, and remove the worry, or perhaps just tear it up into little pieces. Other parents just leave it there. In this instance the Worry Eater acts as a cuddly filing cabinet - keeps the worry secure until the child is ready to retrieve / dispose or decide it is no longer a worry.
Agony Aunts with Teeth
We tend to overthink things a bit in our house. So when Mary arrived, I had some careful discussions with my 9 year old about how her Worry Eater worked. My Alice was emphatic that she wanted something back from her Worry Eater. So she writes a worry (and thankfully declares it to the world), it gets eaten and I do my best to not forget to read the worry that night. If I think it is helpful, I write a response. Sometimes I just leave a quote that I think might fit (recently I left "The world is tough my darling, but so are you"), or on occasion a joke to lift her spirits.
My daughter is on the cusp of being too old to believe in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, but she loves these traditions so we happily trundle along for a bit longer, happy fools. The Worry Eater has slotted in very well with these beliefs. I am pretty sure she knows it is me, maybe a teeny part of her hopes it is not. But it has resulted in her sharing concerns and worries I never knew she had, and I think that can only be a good thing.
An end to all worries?
So can a toy take away worries? No. Well perhaps for the very young, or maybe just for a night. But a Worry Eater does serve a useful function. It keeps open a channel of communication between parent and child that might other wise get blocked or even closed. It can be a little like a public diary - that the child happily shares and the parent doesn't feel guilty reading. Somehow having that colourful creature as a go-between, there for that explicit purpose, can allow a child to express fears that they would otherwise struggle to say out loud.
Promoting good mental health behaviours
So it is just a toy, but in a small meaningful way it is promoting positive mental health, and behaviours that encourage good mental hygiene. Even at the most basic level a Worry Eater is a cute little holding bay for worries, that a child can decide to come back to when they are feeling stronger, or when a new perspective allows them to see they no longer need to spend energy on that particular worry.
Similar to Guatemalan Worry Dolls, Dream Catchers or that special 'Anti-monster' potion you make up to spray under the bed, Worry Eaters are a symbol of goodness and light that by their very presence seem to make some children feel better.
They can work really well as a regular part of a bedtime routine. A consistent prompt to empty the head of the day's cares before settling down for the night. That reliable mate that says 'sleep tight, I've got this'.
And if there are no worries to feed? Don't let that become a concern (my daughter has worried that she has no worries to feed her pet, a little counterproductive!). In worry free times we have found these little creatures will happily survive on hugs and the occasional odd sock.
View all the Worry Eaters we stock here.