Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's all in the Pop(sicle)

With summer and the heat here, I thought it was time to write about an awesome popsicle maker that the whole family could enjoy.  Last year, I was looking for a way to make my own popsicles.  I am an avid baker and thought that it would be a great activity to do with Quinn who had recently begun to show an interest in cooking and baking with me.  When I went into William's Sonoma, I spied the Zoku Quick Pop Maker and knew I had found what I was looking for.  This year Quinn is a full fledged baker and I think we are going to spend a lot of time this summer experimenting with different tasty recipes to keep us cool all summer long!

The Zoku Quick Pop Maker is the perfect accessory to make a tasty and healthy summer treat.  Not only that, on days like today, they will be super refreshing.  The process if very simple and easy for little ones to be actively involved from beginning to end.  The first step is to make room in your freezer for the pop maker (I have the two pop maker but you can get one as small as one or as large as three at a time).  Place it in your freezer for at least 24 hours making sure it is lying even.  Once frozen, place the sticks into the pop maker....make sure they are properly lined up as this will help when removing them from the maker.  Pour the juice into the pop maker and watch it's a little like watching water boil but I think the end result will be more exciting for your little one!  Once the pops are done, you use the handy dandy pop remover tool to magically remove them from the mold.  The last, and in my opinion, the most important is to eat your delicious creation.  I am fairly certain you will have a pretty proud prince or princess on hand after their creations are completed and they get all kinds of positive feedback from everyone who eats them!

The maker comes with a handful of recipes that you can test out.  If you are not a member of Pinterest, I suggest doing so immediately.  There are hundreds of recipes for you to try that people have pinned.  In the middle of writing this blog post, I got an email from one of my favorite blogs, Red Tricycle (another must sign up for especially if you are in the NYC, Chicago, LA areas.  They do have a national edition totally worth signing up for no matter where you live), featuring 20 popsicle recipes.  While all aren't meant for this pop maker, you could easily adapt the recipes for this appliance.  This is a guaranteed good time for not only your child, but you as well.

Some of the occupational therapy goals that can be addressed when using the Zoku Quick Pop Maker are:
Improve Sequencing and Organization:  if you have a child who presents with difficulties with sequencing and organization, you can take the steps of this activity and have the child put it in order prior to beginning the actual making of the popsicles.  Go through each step and talk about what supplies you may need in order to get your child organized and prepared.
Improve Eye-Hand Coordination:  depending on the recipe you choose, you may need to cut up fruits which requires good eye-hand coordination.  When pouring the liquid ingredients in, you will need to hold the cup with the liquids in one hand and hold the popsicle maker with the other.  If you have a child who is struggling with choosing a dominant hand (but know they may do better with one over the other), encourage them to use that stronger hand.
Improve Following Directions:  if you don't follow the steps and directions, your popsicles won't turn out the way they are supposed to. This is a good opportunity to talk to your child about the importance of following a recipe.  Many activities that kids are presented with are similar to recipes in that if you don't follow the "recipe", the final product won't turn out the way it is expected to.  
Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills:  when pouring ingredients, it's important to encourage your child to use two hands; one should be used to hold the cup and the other should be used to pour.  In addition, if you are using fresh fruits, they may need to be cut up or sliced.  This is another great opportunity to work on using both hands in a coordinated manner.
Improve Eating Skills:  I am sure many of you have worked with or are the proud owners of picky eaters (myself included).  By actively engaging your child in the process of making food, you may have a positive impact on their willingness to try new foods.  And when you present something to them in this manner, it will be more fun.  I find that kids are more likely to try new foods when they are more involved in the actual process of making it.
Facilitate Social Skills:  cooking is a great social activity.  It is a great opportunity to work on taking turns by dividing up the ingredients and having children take turns putting them in.  After the popsicles are finished, set up a table for the kids to eat them and encourage conversation.  Maybe you will need to lead the conversation but have it based around making the popsicles and then let the conversation go from there.

In addition to all the other things I mentioned above, this is a great way to begin teaching your children about foods and making healthy choices.  Go to the grocery store together and pick out the different ingredients so they can truly be part of the entire process.  Talk about how healthy fruits are and how they provide your body with the power to grow and become stronger.  I don't know of a single kid who doesn't respond well to the idea of becoming as strong as a super hero!

The only downside is that the maker takes up a chunk of space in your freezer.  If you plan on using it all summer, just be prepared to have a reserved space for it in there.  The great thing about it is that the actual freezing process of the popsicles is about 7 minutes so there is instant gratification for you and your kids.

As previously mentioned, you can get the Zoku at William's Sonoma.  I have also seen it in local kitchen stores in my neighborhood.  As always, I am a big believer in supporting small businesses when possible.  If you have a kitchen supply store in your hood, be sure to give them a call before going the Amazon or big box store route.  They truly appreciate and count on every sale they make.

I would love for you to share how you use the Zoku with your kids.  Do you have a recipe you would like to share with us?  I would love to hear of any fabulous new recipes that you may have and I am sure my other readers would as well.  I am only a click away and love hearing from all of you.

Stay Cool this warm summer!

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