Child care spotlight | Monica McClain

Monica McClain has been taking care of children in her College Hill home since 2010. She joined the WeTHRIVE! Child Care Initiative in 2017 and was awarded the Ohio Healthy Program (OHP) designation in March 2018.

OHP is a statewide yearly recognition program for child care providers who go above and beyond licensing requirements when it comes to the health and wellness of the children they serve. To qualify, Monica completed 15+ hours of training on healthy eating and physical activity with Andrea Liptak, RD, LD of Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH).

Joining WeTHRIVE! and earning OHP recognition “was probably the best decision I’ve made as far as how I take care of and provide meals and snacks for the kids,” Monica said.

She says the in-person training had a major impact. “Going through the program with Andrea was something that ended up being not just a time to learn more about how to take care of the kids, but it was also something that helped me to make better decisions for my family as well,” she explained.

Monica has made many changes that will give the children she cares for a healthier start in life.

Keeping kids active
Monica is a big fan of the CATCH (Coordinator Approach to Child Health) curriculum. It’s designed to nurture a love of physical activity and encourage healthy eating in young children. “CATCH opened the door to a lot of different things that you can combine to teach the children about nutrition, but also have them active at the same time,” she said. “It made things more exciting for them during the day and being able to introduce new ideas was great.”

Monica is exploring other ways to keep kids active, especially during the winter months. She hopes to partner with the College Hill Recreation Center so home child care providers can bring children there to play indoors on weekdays.

No corn dogs, no problem
Monica took processed foods such as corn dogs, a big favorite, off the menu. “They don’t even miss that kind of stuff,” she said. Now she serves items like grilled chicken nuggets. “If you don’t present it like it’s some foreign thing, they embrace it,” she said. “I’ve found that to be the case with pretty much everything that I introduce to the kids.”

More fruits, veggies, & water
Monica looks for different ways to get more vegetables on the menu, even at breakfast. She adds pureed carrots to oatmeal and says the kids love it. “They like pretty much any vegetable,” she added. “And I don’t have to give them condiments.”

She also serves a larger variety of fruit and encourages the children to drink water throughout the day. “What may seem to be minor things, like having water and fresh fruit readily available, this is what the kids end up asking for,” Monica said.

It works!

The children are clearly following Monica’s example and becoming healthy food advocates. “I’ve seen such a drastic improvement,” she said. “Even when their parents take them to McDonald’s now, they’ll say ‘no, mom — I have to choose healthy items.’ They can go into the grocery store and identify what’s healthy and what’s not. And they make sure their parents know.”

Monica’s Tips
  • On getting kids to try new foods: Sit down and eat meals with the children. “It makes a difference,” she said. “When they see you doing something, they don’t mind getting on board with it.”
  • On getting parents engaged in healthy changes: Teach the children first. “Whatever you give them, they take it all in,” she said. Then they get excited and share it with their parents.
  • On achieving OHP recognition: All the training and time spent is worth it. Monica says she got more out of working with WeTHRIVE! than any other program or class that she’s done. “It’s something that caters to what we’re supposed to be doing, and that’s taking care of these children.”

Click here for more information on the WeTHRIVE! Child Care Initiative.