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ADO and Ko Verzuu (1901-71)

ADO: toys that began as occupational therapy

The Sanatorium Berg en Bosch was a facility for tuberculosis sufferers that opened in 1920 on the outskirts of Apeldoorn. The sanatorium organised woodworking sessions as occupational therapy for patients in the final stages of recovery as preparation for their return to society. The ADO series of toys emerged when the occupational therapy sessions were spun off into a dedicated company in 1925, with designer Ko Verzuu, who was also an expert in art, appointed to take charge. Under his supervision and using his designs, patients fabricated the toys for the ADO series. The name ADO originally stood for Arbeid door Onvolwaardigen (meaning “work by the handicapped”), and the patients were paid for their work, so that the therapy assisted their return to society as well as contributing to their recovery. ADO therefore provided social practice through toy-making.

Toys loved throughout the Netherlands

Verzuu was familiar with the new approaches of pedagogy. He wanted the toys produced by ADO to help children to develop aesthetic abilities and stretch their imaginations. According to Verzuu, “The actual form of the toy should indicate, with simplicity and clarity, the essence of the object. Only then will children be able to engage in their imaginative play, using their toys to their hearts’ desire.” Observing contemporary architecture and design, he was influenced by Rietveld and other Dutch furniture designers. Under his supervision, ADO toys gained a reputation for their modern designs, robust construction, colours suitable for children, and for their educational value. As a result, these toys were appreciated and came to be loved by children throughout the Netherlands.

Ko Verzuu, ADO "Furniture trailer", c.1953, Collection CODA Apeldoorn
Copyright CODA / Gerhard Witteveen
Ko Verzuu, ADO "Shop (small)", 1932, Collection CODA Apeldoorn
Copyright CODA / Gerhard Witteveen
Ko Verzuu, ADO "Stone industry trailer", 1932, Collection CODA Apeldoorn
Copyright CODA / Gerhard Witteveen