The Boezels are a series of seventeen fuzzy toys designed for mentally challenged children. Sensorial stimulation in a relaxing environment has proven to have beneficial effects, encouraging the learning process and reducing anxiety. The recipients of these toys also participate actively in their creation, as Verdonck has established a workshop in the day care center De Wisselstroom, in the Netherlands. Suitable for all children, these abstract objects leave room for the imagination: they may be transformed into a range of characters that widens with individual interpretation, opening up countless possibilities for narrative.
Gallery label from Born out of Necessity, March 2, 2012–January 28, 2013.
The Boezels are artificial pets that encourage sensory exploration and reduce anxiety by emphasizing physical contact. The seventeen soft toys that make up the series are suitable for all children, as well as for adults with developmental disabilities. Verdonck, inspired by the Dutch therapy snoezelen (from snuffelen [to seek out] and doezelen [to relax]) from the 1970s, incorporated unique sense-specific characteristics in each toy, using heating pads, mirrors, sound, scent, and durable textiles with different tactile properties. The shapes are abstract, leaving freedom for imaginative interpretation and narrative. The first Boezels were developed and produced with the input of patients at a mental healthcare facility in Hapert, the Netherlands.
Gallery label from Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000, July 29–November 5, 2012.