Kids site provides safe Web hangout


Move over St. Louis Bread Company and Starbucks. There’s a new restaurant in town. Okay, not exactly “in town” but on the internet. Actually, it isn’t a real restaurant and it isn’t for adults, it’s for kids. The Imagination Caf é was launched in September by St. Louis native Roseanne Tolin providing a safe place for kids to hang out, play games, laugh and learn.

The new website ( is geared for kids from age 7-12. The site is set up like the menu of an old-fashioned diner with lots of kid friendly spots to visit including quizzes, games, recipes and articles. Ten-year-old Cookie and her dog Krumbs act as the guides for visitors to the site.

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The Career-O-Rama section gives kids insight into a variety of careers from artists to cosmetologists to restaurant owners and school bus drivers. The articles give information about the career, an interview with someone actually in the career, how to pursue the career, the expected salary and where to go for more information.

Though Tolin wanted to avoid the overwhelming celebrity mania, she did create a couple of sections on well-known personalities.

“Our Before They Were Famous section lets the kids know some background on a celebrity and the kinds of jobs they had before they were famous,” Tolin said. “The Embarrassing Moments are celebrity mishaps but not inappropriate ones.”

For instance, the item about an embarrassing moment for first lady Laura Bush relates the story of her wearing an $8,500 designer dress to a party and finding three other women at the party wearing the same dress.

Some of the other sections on the website include: Extra Help-ings — special articles to help with school like studying and taking tests; Doggy Bag — animal articles and information and the Weekly Special — non-fiction stories on a variety of kid-friendly subjects.

Tolin (whose maden name was Gellman) graduated from Parkway Central High School. She celebrated her bat mitzvah, was confirmed and participated in the youth group at Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel. Her “wonderful parents and three wonderful sisters” and lots of extended family still live in the area.

She majored in English literature at Indiana University in Bloomington and then went on to Chicago-Kent College of Law. She met her husband Hal while she was working in the legal field in Chicago. When the couple moved to Valparaiso, Ind., Tolin decided to take the opportunity to change careers and try something new.

“As an English major I always loved creative writing,” Tolin said. “I hooked up writing feature articles for a daily newspaper in northern Indiana with a circulation of 100,000.”

After five years Tolin was looking for something a little different and became managing editor at Guideposts for Kids magazine. The adult version of the magazine is known for its inspirational bent with articles about faith and God with contributions from writers of varying faith groups. The magazine was a very respectful environment to work in, said Tolin.

“Of course the subject of religion never came up during the interview,” Tolin said. “But within the first couple of days of being hired I had to ask off for Yom Kippur.”

She concentrated on the general interest content of the magazine purchasing articles from “writers from all over and gaining hundreds of contacts.” Three years later the magazine launched a new kid’s website. Tolin purchased content, edited and wrote the website.

“I really loved working on the website,” Tolin said. “It is such a fluid medium. It is ever changing; it always has to be fresh and kept up-to-date.”

There were certain issues which couldn’t be addressed on the website because of the nature of the publication and the expectations of the readership. When the company ended their youth publications Tolin decided to create her own website.

“I had so many ideas on the back burner,” Tolin said. “It gave me the freedom to create and present information and have an impact on kids.”

It was also enticing for Tolin, the mother of Josie, Jack, Danny and A.J., to be able to work from home.

“I created my own career opportunity,” Tolin said. “It’s mine and I am hoping to grow it creatively and as a business. As much work as it takes, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a lot of fun.”

Tolin said the site is compliant with the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

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