A week of outdoor inspiration at Abbey View Nursery

18 May 2023

Artist Kirstin Abraham reflects on her week-long residency at Abbey View nursery in Abroath, focusing on creating resources around creative play ideas for children with additional support needs. 

It was really great to be up in the nursery in Abroath for the 4 days residency. All the staff were so welcoming, smiley, happy, and so open to chatting with us. And so were the kids! As soon as we walked in, they were like, “Oh, who are you? Come and play! Come and Play with me.” It was really lovely, and everyone was so friendly, and I got a real sense that the whole team were really nurturing and so caring. 


It was great to be there with a specific focus on Additional Support Needs. Straightaway it was easy to see that it really is a very sensory-overloaded environment for everybody, so it was lovely to just go into the woods and do stuff with the kids and be in an environment which you could see straight away was very calming. We did loads of cool things. Numbers were a bit hit! Painting numbers on the ground and watching them dry, hiding things in the sand, ‘X marks the spot’ all grabbed their interest. We had a giant inflatable silver ball which was sellotaped with aluminium tape and it was a massive hit! It really helped the kids to work together as a team because the ball was so big, they couldn’t take it off each other. Instead, they would roll it together, and when they were laying on the floor, they would roll it across everybody–it was like a big play schema on a massive scale, and the staff all seemed to enjoy that too. 


It was hugely important to be physically in the practitioners’ setting as I developed these activities, to get first-hand experience of what it is like to work in that environment. It would be difficult to create resources for that environment without being in it. We spent the first two to three days observing, getting to know the staff and getting to know the kids. It worked really well, but I think it would be great to have a residency there for a longer period of time: spend more time in the woods and have different musicians and artists and composers come along and use the woods as a base. There’s something really nice about regulating in that space. Going into the setting, there was one little boy in particular that I had in mind that I’d created some resources for. I made this water pillow thing because he loves putting his head in water to regulate. We made it and put it outside and I thought oh he’ll love that– but he just totally walked past it, because all he was interested in was walking around the woods. That was really nice and I don’t think you can replicate that that authentic response to a place or situation. The woods was just a really nice place for them to be!  


I had lanyards that we put little notebooks on that came in handy. I brought the lanyards so I could take notes and also incase I needed to do ‘now and next’ tasks with any kids, which is a strategy for some kids for transitioning. But it also worked like a great defuser, and tool throughout. There was one little girl that was upset because she missed her mum so I said, why don’t we draw your mummy and put her in your pocket, so she had mummy in her pocket and that helped her. Then the next day she asked if she could put daddy in her pocket too, so she had mummy and daddy in her pocket. I felt there was something in having little notebooks, it seemed to come in quite handy for writing notes, explaining things to kids and defusing situations.  


I really enjoyed it! It was really nice to be working with little ones and seeing how their brains work and trying to find a hook to get them interested. Especially kids that were finding the environment quite hard and challenging.