The gray skies that shadowed the 11th International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap Saturday and yesterday probably conceded all their colors and vitality to the youthful throng below. There was even an occasional Blue Sky--Puppet Theater that is--breaking through and encouraging sun-beam smiles from real kids and revitalized adults.

The festival, which ends today, was spread out among half a dozen stages and staging areas, so that the one constant was swirling motion, busy little bees going about the work of imagination. There may have been more fathers on the pre-football Saturday, but one particular joy of the Children's Festival is that it is a shared, rather than a supervised, experience--Michele Valeri teaching families simple signing to her songs, the marvelous Bunraku-style Kids on the Block Puppets evoking keen human insights with their distinctive handicapped characters.

The festival allowed its guests to both learn and enjoy, a combination that generally dissolves around the fourth grade. By the end of the afternoon, the grounds of Wolf Trap were littered with brief attentions paid to dancers and mimes and musicians and then discarded in favor of puppeteers and actors and cloggers.

The Singing Boys of Pennsylvania, good as they were, had nothing on the impromptu crowd corral--pipsqueak voices confirming to parents "he was good," or wondering wide- eyed "How he do that?" Some tots were beyond the words they didn't know yet, including 2-year-old Melissa Clasen, who proved to be a true disco doll when the Boogie Down Dancers cajoled several dozen kids into an impromptu lesson for this unsquare dance. Melissa got down, and when it was over, didn't want to get off. As she was carried away her "no comment" was hidden behind a half- hearted wail.

There were, in fact, many battles of the will at Wolf Trap--children tugging parents to what they wanted to see, parents tugging kids to what they thought they should see. With each close-up glimpse of magic kingdoms of rhythm or word play, one could almost hear the click of young minds working out just how they were going to achieve similar effects at home. International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap By Richard Harrington Special to The Washington Post

The gray skies that shadowed the 11th International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap Saturday and yesterday probably conceded all their colors and vitality to the youthful throng below. There was even an occasional Blue Sky--Puppet Theater that is--breaking through and encouraging sun-beam smiles from real kids and revitalized adults.

The festival, which ends today, was spread out among half a dozen stages and staging areas, so that the one constant was swirling motion, busy little bees going about the work of imagination. There may have been more fathers on the pre-football Saturday, but one particular joy of the Children's Festival is that it is a shared, rather than a supervised, experience--Michele Valeri teaching families simple signing to her songs, the marvelous Bunraku-style Kids on the Block Puppets evoking keen human insights with their distinctive handicapped characters.

The festival allowed its guests to both learn and enjoy, a combination that generally dissolves around the fourth grade. By the end of the afternoon, the grounds of Wolf Trap were littered with brief attentions paid to dancers and mimes and musicians and then discarded in favor of puppeteers and actors and cloggers.

The Singing Boys of Pennsylvania, good as they were, had nothing on the impromptu crowd corral--pipsqueak voices confirming to parents "he was good," or wondering wide- eyed "How he do that?" Some tots were beyond the words they didn't know yet, including 2-year-old Melissa Clasen, who proved to be a true disco doll when the Boogie Down Dancers cajoled several dozen kids into an impromptu lesson for this unsquare dance. Melissa got down, and when it was over, didn't want to get off. As she was carried away her "no comment" was hidden behind a half- hearted wail.

There were, in fact, many battles of the will at Wolf Trap--children tugging parents to what they wanted to see, parents tugging kids to what they thought they should see. With each close-up glimpse of magic kingdoms of rhythm or word play, one could almost hear the click of young minds working out just how they were going to achieve similar effects at home.