Many preschools (and public) schools have instilled these hard set rules about appropriate outdoor play. Kids cant swing on their bellies (great for proprioception), can only ride trikes on a path and the path is usually a circle (not very risky), cant move items outside their designated play space (not encouraging teamwork and creativity), and can't go up the slide the wrong way!
Have there been serious maming and disfiguring accidents that I dont know about or have we made decisions putting our possible legal liabilities and paranoia over the developmental needs of our children? I read an article recently that spoke of playground accident related lawsuits have actually increasing since this recent push of boring, static playgrounds with restrictive rules.
This picture taken at my school shows the beauty that can happen when children are allowed to "go up the wrong way on the slide." I think the joy on the face of the girl with the extended arm can be enough to encourage us to rethink our outdoor play rules. I wish I could have recorded her giggle! She is a 3 year old helping her older 4 year old friend up, modeling teamwork for the 2 year old friend next to her. Bliss!!
When children are supervised well and given opportunities to use outdoor equipment in ways that allow risk, creativity and challenge it will translate into positive self worth, confidence, and cooperation skills.