As any kid knows, the important things about a snowstorm are not traffic snarls, hours missed at work, getting cars unstuck, emergency parking regulations or a lot of little auto accidents.

To Jennifer Warrick, age 10, and several hundred thousand other children in the Washington area, the important thing about a snowstorm is that it's got to be big enough to shut down the schools so you can play all day in the snow. Yesterday's storm passed the test.

Jennifer, who lives off Seven Locks Road near Cabin John Regional Park in Montgomery County, and her friend, Susie Johnson, 10, spent the day yesterday sliding on sleds, sliding without sleds, eating snow, making snowballs, throwing snowballs and making angels.

Marking angels, of course, is done by lying spread eagle in the snow and moving your arms and legs back and forth so that the impression that's left looks like an angel with a pair of wings.

"We only go inside when we get soaked." said Jennifer, adding that by mid-afternoon there had been two drying-out trips to her house where there was also a cup of hot chocolate waiting.

For virtually all children and more than a few adults in the Washington area, in both city and suburbs, the snow yesterday was a welcome diversion from the winter routine. Their world, on what otherwise would have been a dreary January day, became a vast white playground.

There were snowball fights in far southeast Washington, sledding in Northern Virginia and tobogganing in suburban Maryland.

"The big boys are chasing us," yelled Calvin Smith, 10, who lives in Capital View Apartments in southeast, ducking a barrage of snowballs. "I'm gonna tell my mama," he said, speeding away.

Ethel Thompson, another Capital View resident, slipped on 54th Street with a bag of groceries, which burst open on the ground. The snowball fighters promptly declared a truce to help her out. "This is better than sitting up in my HEW office all day answering phones," said Thompson.

Outside of the East of the River Shopping Center on East Capitol Street, a group of boys armed with a sack of snowballs waited for some neighborhood girls to come outside. They sent a spy to find out where they were and the spy returned with the information that the girls had left by another route. The spy was pelted with the snowballs himself.

"I haven't seen these kids act like this in years," said Ernest Bryboy, an auto mechanic who lives on East Capitol Street. "It sort of makes you forget about what you've got to do and gives and a little free time."

At Lock Seven on the C&-O Canal, a group of about 40 skaters defied a posted warning that the ice was unsafe and a pickup hockey game was in progress.

Eric Moors and Tim Snyder, classmates at Montgomery County's Walt Whitman High school, and John Dominic, a student at Montgomery Community College, brought along's snow shovel and they took turns clearing the ice.

Norman Hunt, 76, of Cabin John, glided gingerly across the canal ice, holding a broom carefully in front of him. "This is the first time I've been skating in two years," said Hunt. "The broom is so I can get it under me when I fall."