Learn about The Boezels: Disability Design & Toys for the Mentally Challenged

“The Boezels” and their happy recipients

The enchanting creatures you see photographed here are part of Dutch designer Twan Verdonck’s line of fuzzy, critter-like toys—and they are more than simply intriguing on the surface level.

“The Boezels,” the name given to Verdonck’s 17 creations, is a series of brilliantly designed toys made specifically for people with mental disabilities. Originally produced as sensorial stimulation therapy devices to promote learning and well-being among individuals with mental illnesses and disabilities, The Boezels come equipped with a wide range of unique features. From the microwavable monkey named Tummy to the sweet-smelling “zHumanoyd” baby, each toy is designed to stimulate one or more of the senses and rouse emotional responses from users.

Twan Verdonck meticulously designed and created each “Boezel” with the assistance of mentally impaired members of De Wisselstroom, a mental health facility located in the Netherlands. Beyond studying literature, interviewing social workers, and observing happenings in various treatment rooms, Verdonck closely collaborated with a small group of mentally challenged individuals through different focus groups and prototype trials.

Sure enough, “The Boezels” project was met with astounding success—the toys have been used in therapy sessions and medical organizations, purchased as gifts around the world, and featured in design magazines and exhibits. The Boezels collection was even featured in a 2006 exhibit at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York City. They stand as an inspiring and concrete model of the productive relationship between art, social design, and human collaboration.

The Boezels: Disability Design & Toys for the Mentally Challenged

A collection of “The Boezels”

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