Cautionary tales don't sound like an appealing prospect for Christmas, but two seasonal shows - Red Shoes at Glasgow Tramway and The Selfish Giant in Edinburgh's Festival Theatre Studio, both firsts for their respective venues - have found clever, appetising ways of making Awful Warnings into tasty theatre-works for younger children.

Tramway is becoming increasingly family-friendly with regular activities and Fun Days throughout the year. Now here is a specially devised winter-time production for the five-plus age group. Judith Williams and her creative team have imagined a richly colourful adventure where the choice of footwear can trip you up, so to speak, or help you to stand on your own two feet.

The inspiration comes from folklore and fairy tale. Williams found that shoes, boots and feet are frequently stuff of dark, scary stories. "You keep coming across all these images that are metaphors for finding your way in the world," she says. "Cinderella's is about finding the right partner for you. The Red Shoes is about not just picking something because it looks pretty, or expensive or easy. You have to be able to walk in whatever shoes - on whatever road - makes you feel as if you're going in the right direction. Look around and you see women everywhere trying to walk in shoes that you know are torturing their feet just so as to follow some-one else's fashion."

In the Hans Christian Andersen story, the allure of the red shoes really does turn into torture: once on, they dance the wearer into exhaustion and finally have to be chopped off. This gruesome end is happily avoided in the Tramway show, but our heroine Judy Two-Shoes does go through some painful moments on her journey towards self-knowledge.

"She leaves the forest that's her home and goes to the city," explains Williams. "And she thinks, in the city, she's found shoes like the ones she made for herself in the forest - but they're not. Appearances can be so deceptive..."

Luckily Judy Two-Shoes has some friends on-hand to help her adventures go with a musical swing. "They're getting used to their animal costumes," laughs Williams. "But really, it's such a gift to have live musicians coming on-stage, and being part of the experience. But it's also a way of reminding people of how important nature is - even for city-dwellers. For Judy Two-Shoes, it's an adventure to see which way her feet will take her."

Over in Edinburgh, Wee Stories are also drawing young audiences towards an awareness of nature and the world around them with a new dance-theatre staging of Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant. Iain Johnstone explains how, when he re-read the original text, he found the cautionary moralising had a Victorian flavour that didn't feel right for an audience of youngsters (aged five-plus) expecting a story-telling treat.

"Instead of the Giant building walls to keep children from playing in his garden," says Johnstone, "he builds the walls to keep the animals out. Animals are, I think, much more fun for young audiences, but it also helps us to give the narrative more of an ecological twist.

"The walls keep spring from coming in. So there are no flowers, no bees to pollinate the Giant's apple trees, so no apples for him to enjoy... It's cause and effect. The Giant didn't intend any of this to happen - but when he's left alone, with only the Frost, the Snow, the Hail and the North Wind for company, he realises there are dangers and consequences to selfishly controlling the environment you live in."

If Johnstone says this with relish, it's because he's looking forward to playing the Giant himself, and taking the character on an arc he says is similar to Scrooge's journey. "He sees the error of his ways, and then he gently passes away - but actually, we think he becomes a part of the landscape. Like the crags and Munros you see all over Scotland - as a kid I was always seeing faces, figures on the horizon, and wondering. We are all, anyway, a part of nature, we just need to be careful not to be too selfish."

l Red Shoes is at Tramway, Glasgow, until December 21. The Selfish Giant is at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre Studio from tomorrow until December 24.