The secret to making an ice pop soft and smooth instead of unforgivingly hard like an ice cube is simple: sugar. This sweet stuff lowers the freezing point of a liquid and acts as a lubricant between ice crystals. At the same temperature as a solid ice cube, an ice pop remains partially unfrozen but holds its shape when removed from its mold. In the summertime, when fruits are plentiful, their juices are perfect for making vibrant pops. Puree berries, peaches, and plums; combine them with simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil); and freeze. This base should taste a little too sweet before it's frozen, because the cold will mute the flavor. Store-bought ice creams and sorbets can also fill molds, singly or in layers.
Let your kids assert their tastes, however strange or daring. Then let them experiment with shapes. Gelatin molds, yogurt containers, wax cups, and small milk cartons will all yield odd and attractive results. The only rule is that the molds must be deep enough to secure the stick. The making of an ice pop is the sweetest of science experiments. So make some space in your freezer, and have a little patience -- until it feels solid, an ice pop will never cleanly leave its mold. The only real trick is keeping that last bite from sliding off the stick and onto the sidewalk.
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