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Survival Course for Mom, Dad : Annual Kids Stuff Expo Features Family-Oriented Goods, Services


Hail, Megamom.

The pinnacle of efficiency and self-composure, she plans a seminar for 2,000 while nursing a child with chickenpox, bakes cookies with one arm in a sling and negotiates the Big Deal by car phone while driving the kids' soccer team to a game. In Barstow.

But what's this? She's now attempting to entertain three young kids on a simple shopping expedition. No, Megamom, this is madness! Think of the whining! Think of the potty runs! Think of the . . .

Sigh. Another super-hero downed by the 40-pound diaper bag.

Laguna Niguel's Jody Schlonsky and Joel Jacobs must have had this latter scenario in mind when they created the Kids Stuff Expo. Part shopping extravaganza, part kiddie play land, the expo gives parents a chance to review more than 100 family-oriented goods and services and gives the youngsters a chance to take in an array of shows, activities and interactive displays.

The fifth annual event, which also takes place at other times during the year in Los Angeles and New Jersey, returns to the Anaheim Convention Center this Saturday and Sunday.

For this year's centerpiece, Schlonsky and Jacobs teamed up with Dinamation International Corp., an Irvine manufacturer of mechanical dinosaurs. The result: Dilophosaurus, a 19-foot-long, 8-foot-tall moving model of a dinosaur said to have lived some 195 million years ago in the early Jurassic Period. Weighing in at a svelte 1.1 tons, Dilophosaurus is one of about 650 dinosaur models created by the firm. (One of D's buddies will appear with Arnold Schwarzenegger in this summer's "The Last Action Hero.")

The Dilophosaurus makes his West Coast debut at the expo, but don't look for him to hang around and enjoy the beach this summer; after the show, he's off to Amarillo, Tex., for a stint at a children's science museum.

While in Anaheim, Dilophosaurus will show off his moves for the crowd. He bends! He leans! He drinks from an elevated pool! Meanwhile, kids can take part in Dinamation-sponsored activities such as faux fossil rubbings, paleontological "digs" or operating a small mechanical dinosaur with a joystick. Professional paleontologists will lead workshops and demonstrations both days.

Local museums and nature centers--including the Discovery Museum of Orange County, Laguna Art Museum and Oak Canyon Nature Center--will distribute information and offer hands-on projects, and Children's Hospital of Orange County, one of several area health-care providers at the event, will offer a kid-friendly introduction to medical care in its CHOC Teddy Bear Clinic (B.Y.O. Bear). Games and activities that teach personal safety will also be offered at the event.

Little ones can maul (excuse me, experience) a variety of Little Tykes toys in the manufacturer's play lab, catch a pony ride or grab some quality time with farm animals in a petting zoo. Live entertainment for all ages is planned for the main stage, including stunt shows by Medieval Times performer Jeff Martin and dancing by Ballet Folklorica Mexico Magico of San Juan Capistrano (Sunday only).

Also featured are the Fantastikids, a five-member cast of young adults who promote drug-free living, street smarts and self-esteem to grade-schoolers through song, dance and puppetry.

If your child prefers more physical pursuits, there's the Great Ropes area, in which youngsters, harnessed and assisted by an adult, can climb to a 13-foot-high perch and catch a flying trapeze. There's also a gymnastics workshop, an in-line skating area, a bowling lane and a moon bounce.

Parents, meanwhile, can exercise their credit limits at booths touting everything from natural baby food and day care centers to educational toys and Tupperware. Or they can gather printed material from various youth, health and educational organizations.

A tip: Even if your children have long outgrown their strollers, try to bring along some kind of vehicle. Parental super-strength aside, by day's end you'll need it to tote all the brochures and freebies, not to mention the played-out kids.

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