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TAME YOUR PARTY ANIMALS

Kids can have their cake and eat it, too Everybody knows that the best way to entertain kids is to take them outside and let them run around obstacles and slide down slides to get rid of all that great energy, then quickly give them cake and ice cream and send them home. But what do you do when the date is set and Mother Nature isn't cooperating? You can think about away-from-home indoor locations for parties.

Skating rinks, movies and restaurants that cater to kids are good.

There are even some gyms and health clubs that offer their facilities for children's parties so the kids can do all their tumbling and jumping indoors.

Or, you can think about at-home entertainments like magicians and clown, especially if the performers involve the children in their acts. There are even performers who dress up like your child's latest favorite. They arrive dressed as anyone from Cinderella to a dinosaur and tell stories that are appropriate to the costume.

The theme is then carried through the rest of the party. Some other ideas from this book are New Wave/Punk party, You're the Mommy/Daddy Party, Space Invaders and, of course, Dinosaur parties.

Next, remember that kids are bundles of energy who have much more fun when they're doing, rather than watching. So if you can, always plan activities that involve them. If you're brave, whacking pinatas and

bouncing balloons work indoors, especially if you have a room that's

"break-proof." Make life easy for yourself by creating an easy-to-serve "birthday cake" by arranging cupcakes in a circle and placing candles on the inner circle.

If you don't mind having your kitchen messed up, consider a

cookie-decorating party before the party, buy or make large cookies in a variety of shapes. Have on hand several kinds of frosting, chocolate and multicolored sprinkles, raisins, nuts and any other toppings you think children would enjoy. Allow the kids to choose the cookie shape they want and then let them decorate it in their own special style. An extra bonus of this kind of party is that everyone gets to eat their "art." Cupcakes can be substituted for the cookies, if you prefer.

In their book The Penny Whistle Party Planner (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $13.95), Meredith Brokaw and Annie Gilbar devote a whole chapter to Chefs in the Kitchen. This book is very imaginative and is dedicated to the premise that it's not how much money you spend, but how much time and energy you spend planning that will create a party your child will love and remember.

Their Pirate Treasure Hunt party suggest a menu of Pirate Sandwiches, a fruit salad aptly called Captain's Salad, Crocodile Brew and Treasure Hunt Cake. Decorations include lots of junk jewelry, gold foil-covered bubble gum, bandannas, eye patches and corks to serve as charcoal makeup for pirate moustaches. For the treasure hunt, Brokaw and Gilbar suggest buying several rolls of pennies at the bank and soaking them in a solution of 4 tablespoons of salt and 1/2 cup of vinegar to make them shine like "gold."

If you have a VCR, movies are an option, but be sure you have plenty of popcorn. Large groups of children don't do well together at movies. All in all, keep your cool, smile a lot and remember, tomorrow the sun will shine.

Treasure Hunt Cake Make two chocolate Bundt cakes. When cakes are cooled, put them one on top of the other (so the flat parts touch). What you'll have are two rounds, with a hole in the middle. Frost the whole cake with chocolate fudge frosting and let it set in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

To decorate: Place the frosted chocolate cake on a large platter (use a meat platter or a tray at least three feet in length). Buy two large packages of M&Ms; you'll need at least six to eight cups, so get the largest packages you can find. Scoop some of the M&Ms inside the hole in the Bundt cake and place the rest of them all over the outside and top. The M&Ms should look as if they are falling out of the treasure hole in the cake, spilling over the sides. Add any other candies you like. The cake should look as if it is a treasure chest full of candy jewels.

For the birthday message, buy ready-made frosted letters and put candles anywhere you like. Serves 28 to 30. Leftovers can be frozen.

Pirate Sandwiches Bread slices, no crusts Sliced cheddar cheese Sliced ham

Cut crusts from bread; toast slices lightly. Place on the counter and cover each with a slice of cheese and a slice of ham. Cover with another piece of bread and cut with a cookie cutter in the shape of an X. Crocodile Brew 3 cups apricot nectar 3 cups pineapple or orange juice 4 cups ginger ale or 7-Up 2 cups orange or lemon sherbet

Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, before sherbet melts. Serves 10 to 12 children.

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