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The circus, lindy hop and Trash

They call it the greatest show on earth, and this year the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on August 9-31 will stage 16,141 performances of 1,309 shows in 164 spaces. That's quite a lot, really, even for the largest arts festival in the world. And for the children, there's everything from circus, theatre, puppetry, dance and music to workshops, storytelling and magic.

Specially for the under-fives there is Red Riding Hood and Little Red Hen by John Peel Puppets, The Three Little Pigs by Kenspeckle Puppets and the mega-popular The Happy Gang's Greatest Hits! There will be a musical workshop Sounds like Fun for two to five-year-olds, where they can play percussion with colourful instruments for three-quarters of an hour.

In the five to nine year range, The Russian Folk Circus at The Big Top on the Meadows promises to re-create the "circus of the Russian Tsars" - all human and no animals, in accordance with Edinburgh City Council's "right on" credentials.

Those who want to stretch a limb or two can go along to Cafe Graffiti to join the dazzling Jiving Lindy Hoppers, who will teach you how to jive, cake-walk and lindy-hop until you drop. Special workshops are available, but unfit parents or teachers should maybe just watch.

Children's classics in this age range include productions of Peter Pan, The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Rumpelstiltskin.

Ten to 13 can be awkward ages to please, so why not chance a surreal comedy? Nepheelokkugia (Cloudcuckooland) is a zany adaptation of Aristophanes' satire on stupidity described as "Godot with beaks". Or there's a Snow Queen and a stage adaptation of the ever popular The Machine Gunners. To say nothing of Caldeon Matsuri, which invites the kids to karaoke, learn traditional Japanese dances and dress up as samurai and ninja.

The same age range features Dance Base Workshops, two productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the perennial Moscow State Circus and the highly acclaimed play Alice and Mr Dodgson, in which Mr D (alias Lewis Carroll) takes the real Alice back to Wonderland in St Columba's by the Castle.

Are your pupils 14 to 16? Interested in dance? Want to be professionals? Then Dance 'N' Stuff says it's the show for them; performed by a song and dance group which also offers workshops at the Southside venue.

The Japan Experience offers Yamato - Traditional Japanese Drums for the same age range and older in what is described as "a cathartic, unforgettable experience". There are five Midsummer Night's Dreams on offer, along with a physical theatre production of Macbeth by K.486, who treat the Scottish play as a "psychological thriller". Taking a leaf from Orson Welles's book, the production uses "voodoo ritual". You have been warned.

Kirkcaldy High School comes to the Fringe with Jean Anouilh's The Lark, The Laboratory presents Dario Fo's Can't Pay Won't Pay and Leicestershire Youth Arts is going Across the Barricades in Joan Lingard's Belfast love story.

A galaxy of youth orchestras from across Scotland and Europe will perform everything from classical to jazz, while The Lied Trio returns with Beethoven to The Beatles.

Teenage homelessness comes under scrutiny in Trash, performed by Palace Youth Theatre, Kilmarnock. Patchwork Theatre from Wester Hailes in Edinburgh raises what it calls the "historical question" of home rule in its show Tartan - is home rule already historical?

And finally, for those versatile in verbal dexterity, there's Born to be Wilde. It's nothing to do with the Steppenwolf soundtrack for Easy Rider, it's a show about Oscar (I wish I'd said that - Don't worry, you will) Wilde.

Further information on venues, times, dates, prices and a multiplicity of other shows from The Fringe for Kids Programme, free from the Fringe Office, 180 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QS, tel: 0131 226 5257

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