What Three-Year Olds Can Teach You About Teamwork (If You Let Them)
Okay, you think, these guys are little.
I can do this.
You’re about to enter the three-year-old daycare room. With a deep breath, you open the door that’s decorated with construction paper lily pads and cartoon frogs.
Every eye in the place is instantly glued to your face.
“Mommmyyy!” a little girl shouts, then realizes her mistake and turns her back.
A curious boy with blonde bangs and a John Deer Tractor winds himself around your leg.
“Who are you?” he asks in that high-pitched three-year-old voice.
“I’m your new classroom helper,” you say.
“Oh,” he says, “Look, I have a tractor!”
The conversation ends, as he zooms around the corner.
You’ve picked up a part-time job at the local daycare. Your brains knows that parent-child involvement is important, especially at this young age. Your heart has always liked kids, so you felt compelled to apply.
You rationalize your decision by telling yourself that they aren’t your kids. You remind yourself that the little tykes are returned to their rightful owners at the end of the day. If
At the end of the day, you get to walk away. (Until tomorrow, anyway.)
The kids have pretty much forgotten about you.
A few girls crowd around the dress-up clothes. The one with ribbon-clad pigtails is wearing an apron around her waist and singing into her spatula like a diva.
In the back of the room, there’s a low table with a set of miniature chairs. One girl is pulling the chairs out and lining them up in a row. A boy with glasses walks up to her, asks her what she is doing, and she responds ‘Making a train!’
He begins pulling out chairs and lining them up behind hers.
In under a minute, eight chairs are in a row. Another girls and her helper are sitting in the first two chairs yelling, ‘Choo Choo!’
This attracts the attention of the other children and they come running, abandoning dinosaurs and books and frilly skirts to join in the train. Pigtail-Girl, who is the bossiest, points her finger at the third chair. “You sit there,” she says to the curious blonde boy, “and he sits there.”
He is the boy with the bright blue eyes. He slides quietly into his assigned seat.
Curious blonde argues, “I don’t wanna sit there.”
Ready to play peacemaker, you hold back a bit longer. As you watch, the
An office would call it teamwork.
Bossy girl defers to curious blonde’s request. One girl gets up, gives her seat to the quiet one, and moves to another chair. The other children file around each other and then start ‘cho-chooing’ and shifting back and forth in their seats as if moving forward on a train.
It’s been years since you’ve been around children this young. You’ve forgotten how simple they are, how little things make them happy, and how powerful their imagination is.
You’re struck, most of all, by their sense of teamwork. This classroom is their workspace. A healthy environment where they problem-solve, discuss, debate, and decide.
Daycare lets children interact with children their age. They learn to communicate.
They learn to work out a solution and work together.
High-quality daycares may lead to higher achievement and stronger peer relations when they hit first grade, by the way.
You watch little heads bob up and down with the flow of train traffic. They take turns (not without argument!) but they talk to each other, throw fits, cry, talk to each other, move spots, and let others take a turn.
The conductor leads the train. The boy with glasses. The other children do not question him. He is their leader. When one says to turn, their tiny bodies shift and they clutch their teddy-bear-babies to their chests and squeal.
Watching, you can’t help but smile.
There is a lot to learn about teamwork from these mini-humans: how to be humble, how to listen to directions, how to defer to others, how to take the lead, and most of all, how to enjoy the little things and have some fun.
Even at work.