Playing with the Elements was a 22-month multi-sensory project led by Kirstin Abraham. The project focused on the sensory aspects of wind, fire, water and earth, and explored their power in enhancing sensory regulation in a more holistic way for children and young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and neurodivergences. Kirstin collaborated with three families across the project, including her own family, to look at how engaging with the elements can improve sensory wellbeing in participatory sessions as well as at home. 

Sessions included fire play, exploration of metal sculpture parks, inflatable play sessions and wild swimming sessions in Scottish lochs and beaches. The project took place in locations across Fife and Edinburgh, including the Ecology Centre, Lochore Meadows, Jupiter Artland, Aberdour Beach, Kinghorn Beach and the Michael Woods Sport Centre.

All sessions took place outside in both blue and green spaces. Families with children with additional support needs are often unable to access spaces like these safely and comfortably due to multiple barriers. This project put access at its heart, ensuring the sessions were well-staffed with support workers and carefully planned to ensure the sessions were accessible and enjoyable for participants.

Participating family members reported how participating in an activity in an outdoor space together as a family unit was beneficial to their mental health and wellbeing. Parents were also able to relax and enjoy the activity themselves while they normally had to focus on their children’s access needs.

  • “We managed to do things I wouldn’t have found on my own without this project. We wouldn’t have had these experiences”
  • “It was just brilliant”
  • “It’s been great to all be together, make connections, to experience different things together, to feel safe doing that with [participant]”
  • “We all felt safe I would never have done that on my own with him”
  • “There’s not enough opportunities for children like [participant] to be outside and experience things. He loves the outdoors. Good to experience things we probably wouldn’t do on our own.”
  • “[participant] was very present after [wild swimming] and is never like that”
  • “The things that we’ve done [in this project], they’re well needed, there’s a gap”

Wild swimming was the most successful strand of this exploration, so the final stage of the project was a series of wild swimming sessions across summer 2023. 

Whilst wild swimming at Loch Ore, Tod Island has ‘winked’ at us from afar often as we have swum, evoking interest and curiosity with our families and their imaginations. We have begun to explore the island and this is the beginning of multi-sensory magic for families.  

Film by: Lead artist – Kirstin Abraham, Video – Oliver Benton, Drone Michael Groves.


Thank you to the participating families – Jack, Claire, Matt, Ross, Carol, Scott, Conrad, Raia, Caedan and Chris. 

And thank you to support workers Connor and Roz, Fraser at the Ecology Centre and Allan and Kirsty at Lochore Meadows, for your support throughout the project. 

Future life of the project

In 2024, Kirstin is in residence on Tod Island to explore the potential for a future larger scale project which will provide an exciting, immersive and accessible outdoor experience for families with additional support needs.

This project has been developed by Fife-based visual artist Kirstin Georgia Abraham as part of the Sensory Collective

Sensory Collective is a 22-month long project exploring sensory arts practice across Scotland for people who face multiple barriers to access.  It is an Independent Arts Projects (IAP) project and 1 of 26 participative arts projects supported by Culture Collective and funded by Scottish Government emergency Covid-19 funds through Creative Scotland

Independent Arts Projects (IAP) works with some of Scotland’s most talented and innovative artists and theatre makers to develop, produce and tour a programme of productions, arts projects, events and opportunities for people across Scotland and beyond.