When child care providers join the WeTHRIVE!℠ Child Care Initiative, they commit to providing a healthy environment for the children they serve. Some go a step further by pursuing the Ohio Healthy Program (OHP) designation.
OHP is a statewide yearly recognition program created in response to the growing concern about childhood obesity. “One of the OHP requirements is to develop a parent engagement strategy,” said Andrea Liptak, RD, LD with Hamilton County Public Health. “Engaging parents is just as important in the early child care setting as it is in schools, where we know that parent involvement is linked to student success.”
WeTHRIVE!’s OHP providers engage parents in a variety of ways. Some are simple — posting healthy recipes on a bulletin board. Others are more involved — hosting a family fun day with healthy food and physical activity. Both ways connect parents to the health and wellness messages that their children are learning every day.
Michelle Baggett, Blessed Christian Daycare Learning Center
Michelle invites parents to monthly activities that are based on the WeTHRIVE! parent engagement guides. She gives them a folder with printed material on the topic of the month and some kind of “goodie,” like a pocket calendar or notebook. Her annual garden event in May is always popular.
Michelle’s advice: Offer an incentive — like a gift card — for parents to participate. “Once they come and you have fun activities and healthy snacks for the kids … the families will come back to events when they can,” she said.
Ary Underwood-Grant, Corban Learning Center
Ary posts monthly information from the WeTHRIVE! parent engagement guides on a bulletin board. The center also has 5-6 events throughout the year, usually celebrating a holiday or season. Healthy snacks and physical activity are part of the fun.
Ary’s advice: To increase participation, hold events at the end of the day, when parents are picking up their children. “They have to pass by what we’re doing to get their kids,” she said. “The children are engaged in the activities and don’t want to leave, so parents end up staying.”
Traci Poellnitz, Cozy Care Nursery School & Childcare
Traci’s has a weekly “healthy recipe sample starter.” Every Friday, she gives out a healthy recipe along with one of the ingredients or a sample of the food. For example, when the kids made guacamole, she provided the recipe and a sample to take home. Another week, parents could take a tangerine to go with a smoothie recipe.
Traci’s advice: Get simple, budget-friendly recipes from foodhero.org. Make parent engagement an everyday part of your program.
Monica posts information on a bulletin board that parents see when they drop off and pick up their children. She said it’s a conversation starter with children and parents, as they ask questions and comment on the topics. For the past two years, she’s hosted a Back to School event at a nearby park on the weekend. Everyone loves the healthy snacks and activities like relay races, musical chairs, and a scavenger hunt.
Monica’s advice: Don’t send home paper handouts. Take a picture and send it via text message. Parents say they prefer it.
Read more about the providers featured in this story:
- Blessed Christian Daycare
- Corban Learning Center
- Cozy Care Nursery School & Childcare
- Monica McClain
WeTHRIVE!’s OHP providers are also featured in our WeTHRIVE! Ohio Healthy Programs video on YouTube!