Ice cream in a bag is one of the quintessential summer activities for kids. The best part: it’s actually doable and you don’t need a bunch of fancy ingredients. This gross motor workout will quickly become a core memory for your family.
Can you actually make ice cream in a bag?
Yes. This works.
This is NOT a Pinterest fail. This is not a click-bait Google trap. Making ice cream in a bag works and actually, this process probably pre-dates Googles.
I know how it looks seeing “ice cream in a bag” splashed all over the Internet. It seems too good to be true. But it’s not. I’ve made ice cream in a bag with well over 50 kids now and it never turns out bad and it never gets old.
RELATED: Looking for other fun and easy outdoor activities this summer? Check out my list!
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What ages can make ice cream in a bag?
All ages. From toddlers to big kids: this activity has longevity and works for a broad range of kids. I like that in an activity.
When I was a teacher, I did this activity with elementary aged students (typically 6 to 9 years old). As a parent, I started making ice cream in a bag with my oldest when he was 26 months old.
But, here’s the asterisks, the caveat of making ice cream with a toddler: B doing this, my toddler learned ice cream can be made in mere minutes. I accidentally divided his life into the time “before we made ice cream” and the time “after we made ice cream”. Kind of like BC and AD but for a toddler who just found out he can make ice cream in a bag.
Bottom line: this activity is brimming with all the multi-age winning elements a good activity has. It’s part science, part gross motor skills, and all delicious.
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- Sandwich bags
- Gallon bags
- Salt (this link is for rock salt but table salt and kosher salt works too)
- Milk or cream – not gonna lie, cream is way better. Non-dairy milks work too.
- Chocolate syrup
1. Take a sandwich sized bag and fill it with 1/2 cup cream and some chocolate syrup (if you want it plain, sub out the syrup for some vanilla but add some sugar. Trust me….)
2. Seal it beyond tight.
3. Place that bag inside another sandwich bag – we are double bagging here.
4. Put that double bagged mixture inside a gallon bag.
5. Fill the gallon bag with lots and lots of ice. Then add more ice.
6. Add 1/4 cup salt to the ice. More if you are using table salt.
7. Seal it up.
8. Place this whole bagged situation into a grocery bag (it’s about to get wicked cold and this helps mitigate that).
The important final step
You need to shake this bag and shake it good.
That can only mean one thing: an ice cream making dance party. You need to shake it for 8 minutes vigorously or about 2-3 dance songs.
The bag does get unbelievably cold so the plastic grocery bag really helps. Shake, toss, and roll! Get this mixed!
You may consider wearing pot holders.
RELATED: Ice cream in a bag is a science activity. If you need more easy science experiments with kids, check out this list of classics.
Tip – Open this carefully
When you’re done dancing, carefully remove the inner most bag. Be super careful not to get any of the ice/salt water into the bag – bleh. I’ve had this happen and it does not taste delicious.
Inside that bag is your ice cream, kind of a soft serve consistency. It does need to be eaten immediately because it starts to melt pretty fast.
What’s the science behind ice cream in a bag?
Water and cream have different freezing points. Cream actually needs a colder temperature than water. When making ice cream, if only ice is use the cream can’t get cold enough to freeze into crystals.
Salt to the rescue.
Salt combines with the ice to allow the ice to get cold enough (before it melts) to freeze the cream. Salt is the superhero: making cold things even colder.
This is a must try summer activity
I can’t begin to tell you how much making ice cream in a bag can change the tone of our day. The first time I made this with my oldest, we had been having one of “those” grumpy days and this made everything so much better.
We had something fun to do, a memory was made, and a little learning went on too. Making ice cream saved the day.
The next time things are going south, bust out a few sandwich bags, have a dance party, eat ice cream together and make one heck of a memory.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have tried, tried, and tried again to make ice cream in a bag using a more sustainable approach. I haven’t been successful. An alternative method to ice cream in a bag is making it in a can. Here’s a recipe for ice cream in a can.
Yes, BUT it will most likely take longer. Rock salt can get to that colder temperature faster than table or kosher salt (for example) so just plan on shaking and dancing a little longer.
The sky is the limit! Test around with what flavors you like. We love chocolate. Vanilla is wonderful (add some sugar though). You can even make it strawberry by adding a little strawberry puree (and sugar) to the bag.