Helping parents help their children

Local Jewish moms Lisa Litvag, Stephanie Saur and Angela Sandler founded kidzxplor. Photo: Rachel Closson

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Helping parents help their children

This being the issue when our monthly Mishpacha (parenting) section runs (pages 12A-13A), the timing seemed perfect to announce a new membership website launching here July 15 for parents of children ages 0 to 12.

It’s called kidzxplor (kidzxplor.com) and it’s the brainchild of three St. Louis area Jewish mothers who thought it up while sitting on a beach in Miami. Isn’t that where most of us do our best thinking, after all?

“The three of us were at different jobs and at that point where we wanted to do something entrepreneurial,” explained Lisa Litvag, the chief operating officer of kidzxplor. “We were all very like-minded and floated around different ideas. This one stuck.”

Not long after the women returned to St. Louis, they started working to make the idea a reality. The upshot strives to give parents access to a variety of activities that will expose their children to new interests in the hopes of helping them find their passion.

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For a $99-a-month enrollment fee (and $59 for each sibling), parents can sign their kids up for all kinds of activities at no extra cost. So far, kidzxplor has 21 partners, including Dave Simon’s School of Rock, Sweetology, Rhythm ‘N’ Ruach, Little Fishes Swim School, the Jewish Community Center, Fit4Mom-Stroller Strides, Play2Learn and Kidding Around Yoga, and hopes to add many more by the time it launches. 

Each of these partners notifies kidzxplor of any extra class spots they may have.  These spots are then posted on the website up to two weeks in advance, at which point a parent can sign up his or her child.

“What this does is provide flexibility for parents and tons of activities that are age appropriate for their child while allowing our partners to fill up the extra spots in their classes and promote their businesses on our website. It’s a win-win,” said Litvag. She added that kidzxplor pays the partners when parents book a class, but declined to disclose the amount. 

Parents can book up to three classes a month at the same place. So, for example, if a child enjoys a guitar class at School of Rock and has been there three times in a month, it may make sense for a parent to sign that child up for guitar lessons on a more regular basis.

“Kidzxplor really allows children to test the waters and see what they like without parents having to blindly spend a whole lot of money on classes or lessons,” said Litvag, a Shaare Emeth congregant whose own children are 9 and 11. 

St. Louis is the first city where kidzxplor is launching, though there are plans to roll out the program in other markets over the next year. Litvag said she hopes next year to include day camps in the St. Louis area with spots open for kidzxplor kids.

Her business partners are Stephanie Saur, who belongs to Central Reform congregation, and Angela Sandler, who goes to Temple Israel.

Also worth noting is that kidzxplor has a philanthropic component, giving back to child enrichment programs in each community it launches. For more information, go to kidzxplor.com.

Schear elegance

Congratulations to Cheri Schear, who earlier this month received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Arts for Life, a local organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating community and youth theater. 

Schear, 79, a former St. Louis Symphony soloist, has been singing and performing for as long as she can remember. We first met in 1990 when I did a short article about her for the Post-Dispatch, which told how she sang in 11 musicals at the Muny each summer from 1957 to 1960.

Schear studied opera at the St. Louis Institute of Music, which later became CASA and now is the St. Louis Symphony Community Music School. She had several leading operatic roles with various companies.

Schear is incredibly proud of being the featured singer with comedian and entertainer George Gobel on his Midwest comedy tour in the mid-1960s, and she spent a good part of the early 1970s with the first national touring company of the Broadway revival “No, No, Nanette.” More recently, she was crowned the 2010 Queen of the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant of America in Fall River, Mass.

Today, Schear, who lives in Brentwood, is still singing at area assisted-living and nursing homes and performing with various community theater groups. In September, she will perform music of the 1960s with the Windsor Theatre Group at the Ozark Theatre in Webster Groves.

“I’m never going to stop singing because I love it so much,” Schear said. “There are plenty of people in their later years who continue to do so. Just look at cabaret singer Marilyn Maye, who is 88, and Tony Bennett.”

Absolutely Cheri. Rock on!

Overheard at the salon

Last Friday, a group of 13-year-old girls who attend Torah Prep gathered at Ladue Nails on Ladue Road for manicures.

When asked by a patron if the girls were celebrating their graduation, one explained, “No. We’re celebrating the start of summer break. We’re not allowed to wear nail polish to school.”