The Red Balloon, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW and Les Champs in the Watergate. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. 956-1200.

What American youth does not dream of designing a car? It may be a small start, but the Red Balloon gives children an early opportunity to do so. From a pile of wood blocks they can pick their medium. There are other wooden vehicles around for inspiration, and pencils to execute their thoughts. The budding designers can draw their vehicles on the wood, and leave them for the Red Balloon's car factory to carry out the concept. The factory's artisans will cut the wood, polish it, add wooden wheels and send each car to its owner, for $3.25 plus seventy-five cents for mailing.

And now is the time to order Easter baskets from the Red Balloon, for the firm needs two weeks' notice to custom-fill them. Custom-filled means you can order a traditional basket of the usual Easter candies and a fluffy bunny ($8.95). Or you can have yours natural-food style, with fruits and nuts, a wooden toy and health bars ($8.95). A more ambitious toy/candy basket mixes pocket-size playthings with the traditional candies ($14.95). Or you can order something called a gourmet basket, with confections from around the world, said to be just the treat for grwon-up children ($14.95).