Traci Poellnitz owns Cozy Care Nursery School in Walnut Hills. She has been an in-home child care provider for almost 24 years. Her program is the only type A home child care provider in Hamilton County to achieve Ohio’s 4-Star Step Up to Quality rating.
How Traci and Cozy Care THRIVE!
WeTHRIVE! Child Care Wellness Resolution: Traci signed the WeTHRIVE! Child Care Wellness Resolution in 2017, showing her commitment to provide a healthful environment for the children in her care by following guidelines on physical activity, screen time, nutrition, and tobacco.
Ohio Healthy Program Award: Cozy Care Nursery School was awarded the Ohio Healthy Programs (OHP) designation in January 2018. OHP is a statewide yearly recognition program for child care providers that commit to providing a healthier environment for the children they serve through written policies, menu enhancements, Step Up to Quality trainings, and family engagement. Traci also completed the 15-hour Healthy Children, Healthy Weights curriculum.
Family Child Care Advocate: Traci is a Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition, where she helps new early childhood providers get their Child Development Associate credential. She is a member of Ohio’s Child Care Advisory Council. “My number one thing is that I am an advocate for family child care,” Traci said. She is the child care representative for, and serves on, the executive board of Ohio Council 8 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. She is also president of the Local 423 child care providers union.
Homemade Meals: Traci loves to cook and has replaced highly processed foods with fresh, homemade meals. “I do a lot of salad based meals, and the kids love it,” she said. She tops romaine lettuce with shredded chicken, carrots, radishes, turkey bacon bits, raisins, shredded cheese, and a yogurt-based ranch dressing. Other favorites include whole wheat pita pockets filled with turkey, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheese; taco salad using ground turkey; and chef’s salad.
Growing Tasters: Cozy Care has been “growing tasters” with a vegetable garden for the past seven years. “We talk about different vegetables, read books about different vegetables, and the kids get excited,” she said. “They get to set up the garden and decide what they want to plant.” The children are involved with planting, tending, and harvesting. They document in a journal everything that happens in the garden. “The kids always want to taste what they grow,” Traci said. She also sends some of the harvest home with the children. “I include a recipe, like for succotash or a simple salad,” she said. The kids are always eager to get their parents to make the recipe at home.
Healthy Celebrations: “Parents try to bring sweet stuff here for celebrations,” Traci said. “I like the fact that I can say, ‘no, we are an Ohio Healthy Program, we are a partner with WeTHRIVE!, so we promote healthy snacks and nutritious stuff.’ I suggest we try a fruit salad and maybe we can top it with a fruit dip, so the kids are eating something more healthy than a cupcake or a brownie.”
Traci’s Tips for Healthy, Budget-Friendly Child Care Meals
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Click here for a handy list for our area.
- Start your own purchasing partnership with other family home providers. “Share the produce you buy, so you can buy in bulk…It might be the least expensive way to buy fresh foods.” Traci partners with two other providers to purchase fresh produce.
- Check store ads for sales. “Find out how you can use things that are on sale,” Traci said. She gives the example of acorn squash, which she had never served. When it was on sale, she bought a lot and tried it different ways. “It tastes like a sweet potato,” she said. “And the kids liked it!”
In Her Own Words
- On Implementing OHP and WeTHRIVE! Guidelines:
“Working with Andrea [Andrea Liptak, RD, LD of Hamilton County Public Health] was very helpful. It was good to work with someone who knows food, who understands food, who can give you a good background on why certain foods are better. She gave me some recipes and helped me think outside the box about some changes I can do here with the families to incorporate healthy eating,promote exercise with the children, and things like that.”
“I’m proud of my OHP designation because it helps show…how we’re taking care of the kids from the inside as well. I’m happy to be a part of that. I’m happy that I am able to change for the best for my program and the children that I serve.”