Norman Wagner kept going back to He-Man, but the plastic doll, molded and painted in the shape of the Masters of the Universe cartoon warrior, was $5.49 more than the 5-year-old had to spend.

"Norman, you're back in the toys and we've still got to get a present for your grandpa," said Kay Sheldon as Norman put a few already-selected Christmas presents back on the shelf at the G. C. Murphy Co. variety store at 1214 G St. NW.

"But I need some more money," said Norman, as he peered into the large metal bin of Heroic and Evil Warriors, a bright collection of prehistoric-looking men with swords, metal armor, bulging muscles and very short bathing trunks.

Norman was one of 2,600 District children who rose early yesterday to catch a bus for the annual Christmas shopping spree sponsored by the Downtown Jaycees.

The children, from low-income families, were driven to five downtown stores that opened early for the young shoppers, and they were given $10 each and a volunteer to help them decide among Frisbees and perfume and crayons and rabbit's foot key chains.

For Norman, a Northeast resident, the decisions were tough ones. He was the last to leave the store, delaying the regular noon opening by about 15 minutes.

For a while, with volunteer Kay Sheldon at his side adding up prices of the selected items on a white note pad, Norman's plastic bag was filled with a print each for his grandparents, two Frisbees for his brother and himself, and a miniature painted glass perfume bottle for his mother.

"Norman, we only have 50 cents left," Sheldon reminded Norman as he began looking at a $5.99 "I Love Rock and Roll" book bag, then moved on to a large cream-colored mug with a rainbow and a picture of the U.S. Capitol. "My grandma would really like this," he said, pulling the mug from the shelf as Sheldon gently nudged him down the aisles.

After passing a nail kit he said his mother would like and a pin he said he would like, Norman pulled out of his bag the 84-cent picture of a clown he had chosen for his grandfather. "I want to put this back. I'm running out of money," he said, also retrieving one of the two Frisbees from his bag.

"I want the He-Man stuff."

Finally, after looking at magnets, a hammer, address books, wallets and Babe cologne, Norman arrived at the checkout counter with the $2.97 bottle for his mother, the 84-cent picture for his grandmother, a $1.19 rabbit's foot key chain for his father, a $1.79 Frisbee for his brother, a $1.17 pen for his father and a 49-cent pen for his grandfather.

But Norman never could quite juggle his items to afford a He-Man, so he settled for a $1.29 box of 16 crayons.

"We did really good, Norman, didn't we?" asked an obviously tired Sheldon.

Norman just smiled.