Diagram showing the safety and functional features of a worry monster. These are repeated in the document text.

WORRY MONSTER BASICS

Knit-for-Nowt passes on therapy dolls/puppets from volunteer crafters to the childcare professionals who use them in their work. The charity carries public liability insurance, operating within safety guidelines set by Trading Standards. Although the monsters are donated rather than sold, and although they are therapy tools rather than toys intended for unsupervised play, many of the same safety standards apply as to a company making toys for sale. Knit-for-Nowt is unable to donate a monster/puppet that does not meet these safety standards.

Safety

  • Filled with hollowfibre stuffing from packaging that is marked as suitable for toys and which bears the B.S. and/or C.E. standard marks. No other type of filling is suitable.
  • Well-constructed so that seams cannot break and stuffing won’t leak.
  • Embellishments and external features like ears, horns, etc., must be firmly sewn on.
  • Secure anything that might fray or unravel.
  • Avoid materials such as mohair yarn that tend to shed fibres.
  • No pom-poms – they shed strands easily.
  • No glue to be used
  • Anything that dangles – hair, ribbon, cord, tails, etc., – must be no longer than 6″ (15cm).
  • Take care to remove all pins, etc., from the finished monster.

Functionality

  • Body tall and wide enough to accommodate a functional tummy-pocket. Minimum head/body height of 12″ is requested.
  • Maximum head/body height of 17″ (43cm) is requested, to fit Knit-for-Nowt’s shipping boxes. Legs that fold back over the body can be any length.
  • An opening mouth so that a child can feed their worry-paper into the tummy.
    • If we add a zip to the mouth, we give the child an extra sense of security when feeding their worry to the monster – they’ve firmly shut that worry-paper away and can see that it can’t escape the monster. A zip also adds a fun moving part to the doll. A zip mouth is optional, but a valuable bonus.
  • Eyes, to give the impression of a face and lend the monster a sense of character.
  • Well-stuffed with the appropriate, toy-safe hollowfibre filling – monster is cuddly.

Bringing the Monster to Life

Building around these basics, we can really bring the monster alive and engage the child’s imagination by adding limbs, facial expression, ears, tentacles, tails, horns, wings, fins, flippers, hands, feet, paws, claws, hair, fangs – any combination we can dream up to add play value, colour, character, and fun. A tiny reflection/highlight in the pupils of the eyes makes a huge difference. Moving parts are great. The more features we can add, the better.

Photo showing a shelf with seven finished worry monsters sitting on it

P.A.N.T.S.

A popular design with the play therapists is a monster that has two dangly legs and a bottom, allowing it to be easily dressed and undressed with a pair of knitted underpants. Knit-for-Nowt has a pattern for stretchy, knitted underwear sized to fit worry monsters. Read about the NSPCC’s PANTS: The Underwear Rule campaign, which empowers children with a clear and simple message about privacy, consent, and reaching out for help.

Colour

Coloured line drawing of a worry monster similar to the one described in the guide

The brighter and bolder the better! Clashing, madcap colours aren’t only fine, they’re encouraged. Bright and vivid colours add a lot of fun and a ‘wow’ factor to the monster, helping to engage children. Don’t be afraid to throw in some dark colours for contrast. Primary colours appear extra vibrant against black and/or white.

Helen’s Monster Design

This is an adaptable design. In this guide I suggest a method and an order of doing things which I’ve found works well for me. If you see a way that suits you better, or if you just want to build on my method to create your own shape and character, that’s brilliant.

My own monsters never turn out exactly the same twice (even when they’re supposed to – matching pairs of monsters are useful in play therapy). I just keep the basics in mind – safety, min/max size, working mouth and tummy – and go with the flow, building around them to create a monster that makes me smile. They also end up being shaped by my many mistakes!