There were no pools, slides, swings or jungle gyms in the large grassy area across from the Art Barn near Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park. But the 112 youngsters from a Salvation Army Summer Day Camp didn't seem to mind.

A small group began jumping rope -- double-dutch style, using two ropes. Others squealed and laughed as they took turns walking on their hands, wrestling or playing tag.

Still others sat on picnic tables munching potato chips -- "They're stale," said 10-year-old Keisha Williams of Northwest Washington -- while gnats buzzed around their heads.

But the gnats, heat, lack of playground facilities and stale potato chips could not spoil the fun, for one simple reason: It's summer.

"I like camp," Keisha said matter-of-factly as she twisted her bangs. "It's better than staying home looking at the four walls."

For 20 years the camp run by the Salvation Army Corps Community Center at 3335 Sherman Ave. NW has kept area children in the great outdoors during the summer.

This year, a $30 registration fee provides each of more than 2,000 youngsters with lunch during the seven-week program and finances trips to the District's park facilities and to Wild World amusement park in Largo.

Across the street from the campers, outside the Art Barn, children in another of the many area programs for youngsters -- a free three-day West African art and dance workshop -- were showing their parents tie-dyed T-shirts and handmade drums.

Since 1980, the Children's Summer Workshop at the Art Barn, 2401 Tilden St. NW, has given children aged 6 through 12 a chance to explore various art forms.

"We've been coming here for four years," said Patrick Tansor, 8, of Northwest, pointing to his 9-year-old brother Alex. "It's fun. We learn things about art."

The program of arts and crafts -- including silk-screen printing, wood carving and totem pole construction -- is popular enough that a waiting list forms each summer. But coordinator Sherman Fleming said it maintains its goal of having local artists work with children.

"We have more than 50 children a day participate," said Eleanor Johnson, assistant coordinator. "The children start from scratch and use all professional materials. They learn the material's background."

The dance portion of the program included a performance by 9-year-old Felice Williams of Charlottesville. Felice -- known as "Dancing Bear" -- who moved to the sound of jangling cowbells and bobbed her head as the beat of drums, shakers and clapping hands swelled. Three necklaces of multicolored beads danced on her chest.

"Good . . . keep going," said Melvin Deal, a local artist and dancer who was teaching the group of 20 youngsters.

"This is different from ballet," Williams said after the session. "The music is different -- the way you move. But both are graceful."

Other children spend summer hours enjoying Library Theatre's Summer Story Builders in the D.C. Public Library system.

At one session, 2-year-old Ra-jah Kelly sat in a child-size wooden chair at the Northeast branch library, looking worried, tears swelling in his brown eyes. When an actor in red leotard, faded jeans, suspenders and a straw hat stepped onto the makeshift stage, Ra-jah quickly lost his composure and cried loudly.

Many children have never seen live theater," said Maria Salvadore, coordinator of children's services for D.C. Public Libraries. "Sometimes the crying gets to be an epidemic."

The privately funded Library Theatre, developed 16 years ago and brought into the D.C. libraries last summer, uses song, dance and acting to make books come alive for children in area libraries and children's centers.

Soon after Ra-jah's crying, more than 85 children were listening intently to the first story, "Hansel and Gretel."

And before long, Ra-jah's tears had vanished.