For any teacher who allows the children to have total free rein in the classroom or playground and that allows resources to be moved around from station to station, I have to say I take my hat off to you, I am all for child led play but when it comes to resources that I know cost a lot of money and can't be replaced easily is lost or broken, I draw a very clear line on acceptable use. Therefore you will hear me telling children to take toys back to the table where they had been set out on rather than carrying them around the room or playground. But there are of course other larger items that can be moved about. Generally the smaller or more expensive the item the less inclined I am to allow it to move from its original place!
On Friday I was faced with such a decision - one child took a bucket and spade from the sand pit over to our forest area and began to gather up a load of bark chips from the forest floor. I quickly assessed that this was an acceptable use of the bucket and spade, he told me he was building a new road and soon he had a whole road crew working alongside him. Then they began to move out of the forest area into the wider playground with their buckets of bark chips, I made a decision to say 'No, the bark chips must stay in the forest area' as I knew they would end up leaving a trail of bark chips all over the playground and we need them to stay in the forest area to maintain that forest floor feel. I did however move a red top over into the forest area for them so they could continue to fill it up and this allowed their play to evolve as they moved onto cooking with the bark chips. Inevitably one child then wanted to add water to the top to mix in with the other dry ingredients. Another decision had to be made - the rule in my setting is they must wear rain clothes (waterproofs) if they want to play with water. So I explained that if he wanted water he needed to get on his rain gear but as the majority didn't want to do this, when he got his rain gear on, I then had to direct him to the mud kitchen for his wet play.
The reason we ask children to wear their waterproofs to play with water is that we have 28 children and if even 4-5 get wet during play it is a big deal to get them changed so it is just much easier if they are properly dressed from the start.
After an hour of so of intense play from two groups in the forest area and mud kitchen, they all moved off to different play of course just leaving all the buckets and spades lying where they had been playing. So before they got their shoes back on I asked the children who had been engaged in this play to go and gather up the buckets and spades and take them back to the sand.
As a nursery teacher, I am constantly challenged by the children in my class and my practice has to evolve with their needs but I don't see any harm in having some boundaries of acceptable use of resources in place.