what wide, missing-nothing eyes you have... what an open “O” of a suddenly speechless mouth you have...

All the better, of course, to take in the adventures of Little Red Riding Hood (HHH, Arches, Glasgow) as she’s waylaid by the scheming, snack-hunting Wolf in the woods. Julie Brown’s account of the Grimm tale doesn’t actually have a character called Elf Ann Safety, but that’s not to say Little Red (Natalie McConnon) is short of the “do this/don’t do that” warnings that aren’t just the stuff of fairy-tales.

Mothers near me exchanged rueful smiles with one another, as they recognised their own anxieties, albeit in the mouth of an almost-pantomime dame (Alasdair Macrae in Maw Broon-ish headscarf and apron).

But McConnon’s girlie, in her smart red duffel coat, is a bit of a self-willed wee besom and a bit too trusting of chummy strangers – Macrae, again, but this time masked and affable as the Wolf. Brown (who also directs this show for the 3+ age group) and her team work resourcefully with only a cast of four and limited opportunities to shift locations.

Hazel Blue’s woodland set has plenty of attractive detailing, the live music helps flesh out the narrative, but the tour de force has to be the Wolf’s guzzling of Granny and her convincing liberation by the Woodcutter – an outcome that sees Little Red more inclined to listen to good advice ... but, interestingly in these nervous times, not afraid to risk another walk in the woods.

Santa’s Little Helpers (HHH, Tron, Glasgow) is the seasonal treat dreamt up by Tall Tales for ages three to six and their adults. This is storytelling with a strong interactive element, and when Stitch (Jennifer Edgar) and Stamp (Barry Henderson) needed help, I suspect many grown-ups wished they too could get involved with the tasks lined up for the toddlers. Kirsty McCabe’s set is enough to make your fingers itch with “Let me!” zeal.

At first sight, it’s a huge foil-wrapped gift box. But then a window pops open – it’s a house. Opened out, it’s a wonderland of a workshop filled with all the shiny, sparkling gubbins – gift boxes, tissue paper, ribbons and rosettes – that can wrap a present fit for Santa’s sack. Oh, and don’t forget the glitter: that’s where the magic really lies because glitter is made from “laughter, Christmas wishes and kindness”. Everything about this adorable show is geared to creative play, with the games and situations – the Elves fall behind with their to-do list, so it’s small hands to the (make-believe) rescue – a genial opportunity for children to use their imagination and join in the fun.

And joining in is what Peep (HH, MacRobert Centre, Stirling) is all about, but – as part of the Starcatchers Pilot Project 2008 – this performance has the thoroughly challenging under-three age group in its sights.

Cellist Greg Sinclair leads us into a bright, airy room full of intriguing play areas. Using toast as a lure, he coaxes Peep (Charlotte Maslin-Prothero, all bird-like mannerisms) out of her little house.

Bit by bit she discovers new things, after which the tinies – abetted by their adults – can explore the space for themselves. It’s a lovely early learning environment, but at only half-an-hour, it seems as if some of the littlest ones are only ready to venture into the unfamiliar excitements when it’s time for “goodbye” nibbles of toast and jam.

Work for the very young is a learning curve for everybody, not just the audiences: Peep has real potential – and the use of music and non-verbal language is spot on.

For those who are a stage beyond Peep, but not yet ready for the full-on panto hilarity of Johnny McKnight’s Sleeping Beauty, the MacBob provides The Night Before Christmas (HHHH, MacRobert Centre, Stirling) , Rob Evans’s whimsical, tender tale of lonely prim’n’grim Carol (Ronnie Leer) who melts into seasonal goodwill when she has to help a lost Elf (Ben Lewis) find Santa before Christmas Day – he’ll die, otherwise.

Claire Halleran’s rooftop set has all the intricate surprise of a life-size pop-out book. Leer and Lewis (who only speaks a gobbledygook Elvish) deliver side-splittingly daft antics, especially as they clamber high and low – but as their adventure draws to a close, they unaffectedly convey the complex emotions that even young children recognise from their own friendships. Elf safe, Carol – like Scrooge – transformed ... audiences transported. Ho! ho! ho! Happy endings all round!