Five-year-old Tosha Gadson told her parents yesterday that she thought she had had it all figured out:

Instead of waiting for older sister to pick her up after school at the usual place Monday, Tosha decided to break the normal weekday routine and get in a couple of hours of play with her school chum Dawn, who lives a couple of blocks away from the Gadson home.

But the trouble began when she tried to make her way on her own that afternoon. Tosha found herself wandering around in the rain in front of the look-alike houses in her Hillcrest Heights neighborhood. That night, lost and weary, she found herself sleeping in a strange house with two little girls who had invited her to come out of the rain into their home.

Yesterday, Tosha was back home and doing cart-wheels on the front lawn - but not until police, aided by neighbors, the family minister, her school principal and her parents' coworkers had searched the neighborhood all night. She turned up warm and rested at the home of Mildred Brown, about a block from the Gadson home.

It seems that when Mrs. Brown returned home from work around midnight, she found one extra little girl sleeping in her daughter's bedroom. She said she thought it was a friend of her daughter's whom the babysitter had allowed to stay over.

The babysitter, on the other hand, had thought Tosha was a friend of the Brown children who was supposed to spend the night there.

It wasn't until yesterday morning that the Browns learned from a radio broadcast that the little girl who had refused to tell them her name could be the missing Tosha. They called police, who swiftly reunited her with her parents, Willie and Earline Gadson, of 2512 Easton St.

"She insisted on going to school this afternoon," said Mrs. Gadson yesterday.

Through it all, her parents said, Tosha cried only once. That happened when a reporter asked her if she was happy to be back home.