RHYTHM AND RED, WHITE AND BLUES, at the National Museum of American Art, Ninth and G Streets NW, this Saturday, 10 to 4. All events are free, but bring your own T-shirt for silk-screening.

There is probably a Wise Old Saying somewhere to the effect that "You will grasp your identity when you are able to see yourself through a child's eyes." That's the sort of thing Wise Old Sayers are always spouting -- especially if they don't have kids.

It's also the sort of thing that looks great on paper, but degenerates in practice into something less than flattering. I know, because according to my youngest child, I look like an olive-headed lettuce leaf with carrot-stick arms. That's what he told me when I asked him about his salad picture: "It's a mom, mom."

Admittedly, things could have been a lot worse. I could have had a marshmallow head, like his next creation ("That's a snowman"), or zucchini earrings, like seven-year-old Carrie Blakeway's salad ("It's a face. . . Can I eat it?")

These artistic salads and more were the result of a good half-hour's preparation on my part and two minutes' study from seven hungry after-school snackers who invaded our house last week to make "edible art."

Shown a table full of fruits, steamed vegetables, crackers, nuts and sweets, along with some neatly typed recipes from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service on how to make Bunny and Raggedy Ann salads, the kids dived in. Carrie caught the aesthetics right off, and instructed the other kids, "We're supposed to make something that looks good -- not just something that tastes good."

The bunnies mutated quickly into little boys with lettuce shorts, horses with broccoli ears, and a marshmallow that an imaginative eight-year-old "roasted" over a cheddar-cheese fire. There were also faces, beasts and botanical items made as each child created and consumed two or three platefuls of quasi-nutritious art.

Then, with a reasonable amount of coaxing, the vegetables and fruits returned to the refrigerator. Candies surfaced, to the children's delight, and we went to work on that night's dessert -- a plain sheet cake with white icing.

The children's task was to devise and apply a group decoration to the top of the cake. The plan had to be agreed to by all parties involved, and each youngster had to take part in the actual decorating.

What followed was the sort of meeting one suspects occurs daily in Congress, with a thousand good ideas discussed and discarded for lack of a vote, and a compromise plan that wound up looking like -- well, a compromise.

It was to be a Country Scene, see, with a good many typical country items: an apple tree, a flitting butterfly, a shining sun, a stegosaurus. The original model also called for a fallout shelter, but when the children went to outline their fantasy on icing, the shelter sort of fell out. So did a picket fence that Carrie wanted. "It's too crowded for all that," she declared with resigned fatalism.

Toya Blakeway, an 11-year-old model of patience, drew in all the children's requests first by knife point. The kids then took turns following this outline with colored icing, and filling in with red hots (they spilled), maraschino cherry "apples" (they dripped), almonds (on the stegosaurus), and M&Ms.

After a suitable number of ooohs and aaahs, we cut the cake, and sent each child home with a piece. They left behind a wake of carved carrots, squeezed icing tubes, opened cans of fruit and unboxed crackers, promising many, many salads for the days ahead.

If there are any olives left, maybe I'll do one of my sons. ("It's a son, son!').

If you'd like to make your own artistic salad bar, you might set out supplies for: BODIES -- peach or pear halves, pineapple rings, spiced apple rings, cucumber or squash rounds, crackers, breads. ARMS AND LEGS -- sticks of carrot, celery, squash or bread. HEADS -- marshmallows, olives, strawberries, cherry tomatoes or any items under "bodies." EYES, NOSES, MOUTHS, EARS -- raisins, maraschino cherries, red hots, nuts, slices of fruit, small candies. HAIR -- shredded cheese, coconut, cottage cheese, cooked pasta, lettuce. THE MUSEUM'S KIDS' DAY Parents who like the idea of kids' making edible art, but want to keep the maraschino cherries to themselves, should troop their offspring down to the National Museum of American Art Saturday for the annual Children's Day. Here art will not only eaten, but worn, played with, carried and lived in.

The theme this year is "Rhythm and Red, White and Blues" -- an attempt to teach rhythm and color in American art. What that means is that a bunch of local artists are going to show kids how to make red-white-and-blue paper clothes, mosaics, maracas, flags, papier mache masks, and rooms.

The rooms are called "environmental pieces," which translates as kids filling a whole area with mobiles ("Of their family members -- come on down and hang your mother!"), stripes or macrame.

Assistant curator Margery Gordon, who with docent Peggy Ritzenberg is organizing the event, has a dream for the day's end. She wants the children to form a parade, wearing, shaking and carrying their creations through the various "environments."

In her vision, the kids wind up in front of a giant table filled with cookies and cakes to "paint with frosting, gumdrops and goodies. After sufficient artistic effort, the creators will get to eat their creations.

Now that's participatory art