Never mind downtown Christmas traffic, shortened tempers and prices that are often much too high.

None of this unpleasantness exists in a room of fantasy on Woodie's second floor, across from Santa's snowdomed throne, just past the Star Wars force beams, Weeble villages of plastic little egg-shaped people and bionic dolls.

Through four-foot-tall garlanded archways, enter a Christmas market-place stocked with stacks of low-cost gifts from 35 cents to $5 each.

It's the Secret Gift Shop. No adults allowed. Created by Woodward & Lothrop in its downtown and Columbia, Md., stores, the one-step shop saves time for parents and has made shopping alone easier for youngsters on Christmas.

Since it opened the day after Thanksgiving this year, about 5,000 youngsters have bought 20,000 presents averaging $2 each in the Secret Shop, which has become an exclusive Woodies tradition for the past seven years, a spokesman said.

Woodies gathers low-cost items from all its departments to create a children's store within a store, providing sales clerks to give guidance and wrap the presents, tagging them with names, all for free.

The shop's wreath-decked exterior, a manor-style Olde English facade, encompassed a special world of gift ideas for children aged 4 to 14, allowing them to match dollars and sense.

"I like this place because parents can't come in here and see what I am shopping for," said Terri Davis, 11, who didn't know that the six mirrored windows to the Secret Gift shop were one way, letting adults see in.

Terri's father, Charles Davis, said, "They (his two children shopping) like the feeling that they have selected something on their own; it makes them feel more independent."

"They become little adults when they walk through that doorway," said Thomas Toye, one of the Woodies sales clerks who assists children in gift selections.

"I can usually tell how their parents are because the children try to act just like them. If a parent has an 'I don't need you help attitude' toward sales people, the children usually do too," Toye said.

"We get some of the wildest kids," said Beverly Short, another sales clerk. "Some of them want to look at everything first before they make decisions and most of them really value their money - they look for bargains too. Some of them try to save money so they can buy toys for themselves."

Sales clerks are often amateur psychologists. They have braved the excited youngsters who wet their pants, the screamers who cry around strangers and the onverbal types, saying "these kids are really something else."

"Little boys will buy almost anything. Most of them don't want to smell the cologne, they just want to know how much it costs," one sales person said. "Girls are more particular, look for value and try to save a little money."

"It hurst so bad to see them upset when they don't have enough money to buy presents. Some of us have given as much as $6 to help some children pay the difference," Short said.

Donna Draughon, an assistant supervisor of the shop, said, "It makes it all worthwhile when the little ones give you a hug around the neck."

Despite the independence that some children said they feel when they are allowed to shop without parents, the first shopping trip can be a harrowing experience for others.

Five-year-old Kirsten Drescher, her long blonde hair streaming down her back and her blue eyes wide with the wonder, stood immobilized just inside the archway into the Secret Shop. For about a minute, she stood staring at the red felt covered tables stocked with space puzzles, tiny shinny bottles of cologne, imitation leather wallets, orange lion banks and colorful necklaces.

After considerable coaxing from a sales clerk, Kirsten shopped past the tables of 99-cent mugs, $2.95 one-ounce bottles of Max Factor WindSong cologne and past $3 bottles of Jean nate Friction Pour le Bain that a sales clerk explained was bath oil.

At the end of her shopping venture, Kirsten, barely able to see over the checkout counter, watched as attendants wrapped the presents, and placed them in her tiny shopping bag.

What were the present? Kirsten wasn't talking. But as she left the shop, she did leak one secret: "I don't know what mommy wants, but I'm giving her a necklace."