Kids’ Activity: Make Your Own Ice Cream

How to Make Your Own Ice Cream

I’m hopelessly uncrafty, so many of the kids’ activities circulating around the internet are out of my wheelhouse. But! We found this very easy way to make your own ice cream (no machine required) and it was such a fun thing to do with little dudes. Here’s how…

How to Make Your Own Baggie Ice Cream

First, gather your ingredients: 1 cup half and half, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp sugar, lots of ice, 1/3 cup of salt, toppings (optional)

How to Make Your Own Baggie Ice Cream

Mix half and half, vanilla and sugar in a small ziplock bag. Put ice and salt into a large ziplock bag.

How to Make Your Own Baggie Ice Cream

Put the small bag into the larger bag, and seal both bags.

How to Make Your Own Baggie Ice Cream

Shake (a lot!) for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has turned into ice cream. The kids had the best time doing this!

How to Make Your Own Baggie Ice Cream

That’s it! Then serve with your favorite toppings. I couldn’t believe how delicious the ice cream was and how easy the activity was. If I can do it, anyone can. :)

P.S. An awesome “I’m Bored” jar, and a surprising way to stop tantrums.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo. Our recipe is adapted from Delish and Simple Play Ideas.)

  1. Catarina says...

    My boys and I had so much fun with this! We’re in Australia so instead of ‘half and half’ we used half cream, half full cream milk… and it worked well. The only thing was we were a bit vigorous with the shaking and the inside baggie broke, resulting in a still delicious albeit slightly salty ice cream! Thanks for the activity idea!

  2. suz says...

    tried this today, did not work. shook it for half hour adding salt and more ice. still did not work.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh really? I’m sorry to hear that! It has worked for us every time. Wish I were there to try to troubleshoot!

    • Zahra says...

      Same thing happened to us, shook it for about 20 minutes but it remained liquidy so we just ended up leaving it in the freezer for an hour or so which worked well.

  3. Ana says...

    “hopelessly uncrafty” will now feature on all my biographies.

  4. Alyssa says...

    Love this! I remember making butter in an elementary class as well by shaking a jar and passing it around in a circle. It was so much fun!

    Something similar to this: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/how-to-make-butter-in-a-jar/

    (not my website)

    I love that you’re finding simple hands-on activities that are fun for the family!

  5. Tyler says...

    I learned how to do this in school as a kid using a coffee can! We put a smaller container with the mixture inside the coffee can and put the ice and salt around it. Then you just roll the coffee can.

  6. Marie says...

    I remember doing this as a kid, and our salty ice water leaked into our ice cream bag, causing the ice cream to taste super salty!

    • Sheri says...

      Haha this happened to us today – not super salty, but it could have been called “salted vanilla” ice cream – a little chocolate syrup made it better ;)

  7. Anna says...

    Oh that is so cool. We have an ice cream maker (by Dash) and I love it. But it’s fun to find out about new, fun, and even simple ways to make it. Related, I found out a way to make whipped cream. You take a mason jar and put the heavy cream in with a few frozen marbles and shake for a while. It’s the most fun passing it around for turns to shake it. The whipped cream wasn’t as thick but there was something fresh about it that is lost with the beaters or hand blender wisk.

  8. Caroline says...

    You know, crafts can be fun, but lots of other activities are just as great—and doing things you dislike doing rarely turns out to be fun for your kids. And not all kids enjoy doing crafts either! So keep on being yourselves, all you parents out there in this strange time, and just keep connecting with your kids in whatever way works for you!

  9. Rachel N says...

    When I was a kid I LOVED watching Zoom on PBS (the 90s/00s version – it was based on a 70s series). They’d do games and crafts and recipes, including making homemade ice cream similar to this way. It looks like the videos are sporadically available on YouTube now – highly recommend! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCik_Rf2BCZJblalNr89ImFw (if the link doesn’t work – try searching for the channel “ZOOMTube”)

    • Amanda says...

      The song they sang at the end of every episode gets stuck in my head at least once a week. “E-mail……Z-MAIL!” Please tell me you know what I’m talking about.

    • Daniah says...

      Yes I loved Zoom! I still remember the lyrics to closing song to this day.

    • susan says...

      this was so great! i just made it with my boys – called it a science experiment and they had no idea what would happen at the end of a really fun process, tossing the bag around the house and trying to keep it away from the dog! and the ice cream at the end was so delicious and old-school tasting. loved it! thank you!

  10. We make vegan ice cream all summer long. 1 cup Almond milk, 1/2 cup quality cocoa powder, 1 tbsp vanilla, mix and add to silicon muffin trays. Freeze for an hour or so and add tongue depressors. Let freeze over night. Pop’em out to eat.

  11. Katherine says...

    We used to do this in girl scout camp. If you double bag the ice cream then fill a coffee can with salt and ice you can roll it back and forth to each other.

  12. Sabrina says...

    Yummy!

  13. Lisa says...

    I’m in the UK and they don’t seek half and half, so how do you recreate it?

    As to the non crafty comment – preach! My children’s nursery has been amazing, putting together a craft pack that they could do while in isolation, but between two kids, household and working full time from home, the project hasn’t really happened. I feel even more bummed when the other mothers post pictures of their kids’ (beautiful) finished results. What we have done is baked muffins for breakfast and they’ve made “trains” out of their toys, but crafty stuff isn’t happening. Especially since we’ve run out of glue and deliveries are delayed

    • A says...

      Irish here and I’d love to know more about half and half too, as it just isn’t a product here. I’ve googled it and apparently you can DIY it by mixing half a heavy cream and half whole milk together. Is that right?
      I’ve also read that it can split and curdle if its not homogenised, which clearly the DIY version isn’t so does anybody know of that would affect the ability to turn to ice-cream? Thanks in advance for any tips! 💚

    • Erin says...

      You can use whipping cream or whatever a high-fat cream is called in the UK :)

    • Erin says...

      Half and half (at least in Canada) is 10% fat, so if you do half milk/half UK single cream, it would be a similar fat %!

    • Just mix one part heavy cream with one part whole milk. That’s half-and-half. So for this recipe you would use 1/2 c. heavy creame, 1/2 c. whole milk. Cheers!

  14. My sister had this recipe back in 1997 for the elderly at the nursing home for an activity. I was great then. We lost the recipe for it so when I saw this the bells went off. This is great and I now have it in MY cookbook.

  15. Gina says...

    I love this idea! Unrelated to ice-cream making, but related to keeping little ones busy during the quarantine – my sister opened a new Etsy store featuring beautiful collage making kits for both adults and kids – thought I would share!

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtKitStudio

  16. K says...

    Your statement that the crafty things on the internet aren’t in your wheelhouse, and the implicit statement that that means you just pass them by, made such a weight lift off my shoulders.

    It was somehow a revelation to me that it’s okay to say that’s not for me, so let’s do something else.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh i’m so glad to be helpful! :)

    • Auste says...

      Hi! I have a bunch of simple crafts saved in my Instagram highlights @austekuolas if you need ideas… We’re also saving every box (cereal, cracker, delivery, tissue) to construct a town – with a school and a post office and grocery store etc. – it’s a work in progress, but we’ll add to it as we finish off more snacks:) Then they can use little matchbox cars and little dolls or whatever to play in the town… that’s the hope at least!

  17. Jules says...

    Do we know what kind of sprinkles these are? I love the colors of those pictured!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask yossy!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she says they’re the whole foods store brand, and india tree makes similar ones. xo

  18. Meech says...

    I made this in high school more than 20 years ago. But instead of bags we used a baby jar and put that in a coffee can w ice then we shook and rolled them back an forth.

    • Nicole says...

      Yes I remember this from school- we rolled the coffee cans down a hill repeatedly instead of shaking

  19. We’re making it right now and I hope it turns out because this would be my new favorite dessert if it does!

    Stephanie

  20. Claire says...

    What a wonderful idea!
    FWIW, years ago we inherited a home ice cream maker from a friend and making ice cream became one of our favorite fun things to do. It’s like alchemy- you put the ingredients in and watch them whirl around, then magically there is the ice cream! I encourage anyone with kids, or teens, or adults, or really just anyone who loves ice cream, to consider getting one. They are fun and easy to use, and the ice cream is delicious.

  21. Mary Fiore says...

    This looks so fun! Can’t wait to try! I made a short Yoga for Kids video the other day for anyone looking for another activity for their children. Hope everyone is well. Sending love to the entire Cup of Jo community.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfRM62LMvCg&t=21s

  22. Julia says...

    You just made my 3yo’s day. He was begging to make ice cream this morning, as one does. It’s like he knew ☺️

  23. Gina says...

    Hello there
    You can have a lovely treat by using instant pudding, any flavor and milk in a baggie.
    They can use their hands to mix it back and forth by squeezing the bag. You just made pudding!!!

  24. Ll says...

    I saw someone already mentioned it, but make your own butter! I use an electric whisk so it doesn’t take forever, but I’m sure there are plenty of alternatives. Make some easy scones or your favorite bread, your homemade butter and some salt on top.. mmmmmm delicious!

  25. Stephanie says...

    No half and half in the UK – does anyone know what would work as a substitute?

  26. Klara says...

    This is actually how they used to make ice cream before electricity!

  27. Olivia says...

    We used to do this in middle school! We would stand a few feet apart and throw it back and forth which was so fun.

  28. Libby says...

    If you whip up heavy cream, stir through a tin of condensed milk and chopped up chocolate bars or m&ms, put it in the freezer it makes the most delicious ice cream.
    We put it between two layers of biscuits (cookies) to make ice cream slice.

  29. Emma says...

    We don’t have ‘half & half’ in New Zealand… does anyone know if you can just use whole milk?

    • Lily says...

      Hi Emma! Half and half is just a mixture of whole milk and cream. I bet you could approximate the mixture by using equal proportions of milk and cream.

    • Calla says...

      I think you need some cream for it to thicken. but half and half is just half milk, half cream so you could mix it yourself. As I recall though in Australia all the cream had gelatin in it which could affect the result. Is it the same in New Zealand?

    • Sara Bajkowski says...

      No, just use half cream and half full-fat milk.

    • Jen says...

      Half and half is just half milk and half heavy cream.

    • Emily L says...

      You should be able to use half whole milk and half heavy cream.

    • Kimberly Keck says...

      I think heavy whipping cream is a better bet. :) Or you can make your own half and half with half whipping cream, half whole milk. Good luck!

    • Rachel says...

      Half & half is equal parts whole milk and heavy cream, so just mix those two together!

    • Hollye says...

      Half and half is literally just half heavy cream half whole milk. :-) so combine those two!

    • Deb says...

      In the past I tried this overseas and it worked: you can use 1/2 milk and 1/2 whipping cream to make your own half and half :)

    • Sarah says...

      Half and half is just equal quantities of whole milk and thickened cream.😉

    • Megan says...

      Half whole milk half heavy cream

    • Joanna Tsay says...

      Half and half is just half cream half milk!

    • Midori says...

      ‘Half and half’ is the same as using equal parts whole milk and heavy cream, so if you just use whole milk it won’t work as well. (It will be icier, more like a slushie.) With one version with milk and a second one with cream, you could actually could turn this project into a mini chemistry experiment! You could demonstrate that the structure of the air bubbles coated with fat molecules from the cream is what prevents them from collapsing when whipped (or shaken), making a smoother and creamier product. This is really easy to see when you try to create whipped cream with milk.

    • Ann says...

      This is 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 heavy cream!

    • katya says...

      Half-and-half is half whole milk, half heavy (whipping) cream, so you can probably make your own. Hope this helps!

    • Annie says...

      Half and half is literally just half whole milk half heavy cream. Very easy to just make yourself. :)

    • Celia Goddard says...

      I wondered this- when I looked up UK baking equivalents it said use half milk half single cream… it said if in doubt just use cream. Not made it yet though so time will tell!!

    • Sherry Frantz says...

      Can you add a bit of “cream” to your milk? That ways it’s “half(milk) and half(cream)”. You may find it will bind easier if it has more cream.

    • Lauren says...

      Heavy/whipping cream (or mixing whole milk with heavy/whipping cream) might give it close to the same fat content, I’d assume! Missing New Zealand in London right now!

    • Ludo says...

      Unfortunately not, but try light whipping cream!

    • Ali says...

      Yes! Australian here. What even is half and half – is it half milk half water?

    • Aussie says...

      Aussie here, I was wondering that too. It looks like it’s half full milk and half light cream, we can probably mix the two ourselves.

    • American expat here in Australia. You’ll want to use half thickened cream and half whole milk. Which is what half and half is. :)

    • Penny says...

      Might be better off with some kind of heavy cream, but I was pondering the same thing. What substitute here would work. Maybe half heavy cream, half ‘half-full’ milk?

    • J says...

      Half & half is half whole milk, half cream :)

    • Paulina says...

      Hi Emma, whole milk still does not have enough fat and thick consistency.
      Do you have heavy whipping cream? That might work

    • Connor says...

      Just use half cream and half whole milk!

    • Vanessa says...

      It will work with whole milk too, but might not be as creamy. You could mix whole milk and cream (1:1) or try also chocolate milk. Have fun! :-)

    • Harneet Kaur says...

      Hi Emma, You will need something creamier/fattier than whole milk. If you have heavy cream or light cream available to you, then use 1 part heavy cream to 3 parts whole milk, or 1 part light cream to 1 part whole milk. Hope this helps. You can also use butter, but I’m not sure of the ratio to whole milk

    • Claire M says...

      Half and half is 10% Whole milk is 3.5%? So many mix options. I never liked diluting with water, but diluting a heavier cream with milk seems more similar. Or could surely just use higher milk fat like full cream or table cream if available.. Maybe you’ll end up closer to dense ice cream compared to the lighter fluffier one.

    • Not enough fat. Mix half heavy cream and half whole milk.
      :)

    • Lauren says...

      It needs to have a fair amount of fat in it to work (or else it will just be ice-milk!), so whole milk won’t do the trick. But you can mix one part heavy cream and one part whole milk, then you’ll have the half and half equivalent :)

    • Grant says...

      As many others have said you cant just use milk. For the consistancy you need the added fat from the cream, eggs also help with this. I have a book that Ben and Jerry wrote , in it they said to make 1 quart of their most popular icecream base it is 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 3/4 c sugar

  30. Teresa says...

    I had 10 “dead” bananas and discovered a recipe for one ingredient banana ice cream. It was amazing and delicious (especially with fudge sauce).

    -slice your bananas into evenly sized pieces (shape does not matter…just make sure they are even)
    -freeze overnight or at least 4 hours.
    -put frozen bananas in a food processor and pulse many, many, many, MANY times (scraping in between) until the banana resembles soft serve ice cream (no chunks!)
    -transfer into freezer safe, air tight container and freeze another hour or so until solid.

    -scoop into bowls with optional toppings (fudge and nuts!!)
    ENJOY

    • Andrea says...

      I was going to comment with this recipe if someone hadn’t already! We loooove one-ingredient banana ice cream. A must-try! I really like it plain but also with chocolate chips, and my daughter likes sliced strawberries in it.

  31. Meghan says...

    Anyone know if I could make it with almond milk instead of half and half?

    • jane says...

      Yes, you can – but coconut milk works so much better! If you use almond milk, switch to agave or honey to help prevent the almond milk from crystalizing.

    • Jenna says...

      You can, but it will be very thin/watery unless you add eggs, gelatin, or some other kind of thickener. I’d recommend googling an almond-milk specific ice cream recipe, but the same technique (salt/ice/double bags/shake shake shake) will work!

    • Veronica says...

      It would have an odd texture, more like a slurpee since it would be mostly water. A vegan creamer like a coconut milk/coconut cream based one would work though.

    • Olivia says...

      You need a fat component. Try canned coconut milk plus almond milk!

    • Sherry Frantz says...

      Not unless you mix in some days with it

    • Laureline Lasserre says...

      You inverted sugar and salt, right? Hihi!

    • Elena says...

      @meghan, probably not… :( it’s the fat content in the half and half that really makes it work in a simple process like this. For almond milk you might need an ice cream maker. But google away… I’m know there are awesome vegan ice cream recipes out there.

  32. Jess says...

    Might you have a recipe link to which I can lead them? I can only imagine which blog posts they’d get into if I sent them here … ;)

  33. Jess says...

    I’m a second grade teacher who is struggling to find things that are doable with time and resources, offline (to give kids a break from the screen), and engaging for my students while they’re home . This ticks all the boxes. Going in the lesson plan for next week. Thank you! :)

  34. Laura says...

    When I worked in a preschool, the teacher would have kids come in with mittens one day and they’d make ice cream this way by wearing mittens and playing catch with a partner. So fun!

  35. Eleanor Frances says...

    I know how you feel. Doing crafts is so over-rated. I just don’’t enjoy doing them.

  36. Sarah Gordon says...

    I’m 59 years old (young) and I think I’ll try this for my husband and me (we’ll share the shaking!).

    • Kara says...

      I love it! That’s exactly what I hope to be doing at 59 too!

  37. Kelly says...

    Joanna, my mom would wrap the bag situation in newspaper and duct tape and have us throw it around in a circle. You could pass to anyone except the person who passed to you. I think this was a Boy Scout activity! It got the energy out a bit more than shaking, and you can even do it sitting down if you like. She’d also add Nesquick strawberry syrup sometimes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so fun!

    • Tristen says...

      I grew up in the country and we did this all summer, but kicking it back and forth in a coffee can!

  38. Liz L. says...

    I remember making this in elementary school and thinking it was magic! Great idea! I think my kids would love it.

  39. Lauren says...

    Always a fun project! In the interest of conserving home items and not having to go to the store as much, this would be a great time to start washing and reusing plastic bags. We just turn ours inside out, wash like a dish, and hang over a glass or other tall object to dry. Happy ice cream making!

    • K says...

      Same here! This time has me making more efforts to reuse items!

  40. shade says...

    That’s funny – my 6 year old and I just made butter for the first time this weekend, by shaking heavy cream in a jar for 10 minutes. Then we added salt after. It was wild! And delicious.

    • Rebecc says...

      Great idea!!

    • Tess says...

      I came down here to suggest exactly this activity! I vividly remember doing it as a kid and finding it fascinating!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh wow, so cool! i had no idea you could do that!

  41. Cait says...

    I am not one to look up crafts, but getting an idea for an art project with minimal supplies always feels so much more manageable. We’ve done a few prompts from @rubyellenbratcher, one of my favorite instagram people, whose blog I’ve followed since way back when. They’re very simple but so fun and unique!

  42. Maryn says...

    I was literally thinking of making ice cream like this today—what perfect timing! :)

  43. maywyn says...

    Best fun food idea I’ve seen!

  44. jeannie says...

    This looks like such fun! I think I may have to just do it with no kids.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the end result is really good — milky, sweet and fresh!

  45. Dominique says...

    We made popsicles today and my kids were so excited. We will have to do this soon. They will love it.

  46. Love it! Our children have been busy making some similarly sweet treats in the kitchen, also heavily reliant on sprinkles :) I just wrote about it here –

    https://themumandthemom.com/2020/03/30/elsa-cooks/

    but think they’d love the idea of homemade ice cream so will have to give that a go this week! x

    • Valerie says...

      Thank you for this! Can’t wait to try it with my 2 and 4 year old boys tomorrow. The last few weeks have been, ahem, challenging.

  47. Agnes says...

    I think something is missing, like cream or milk ? It sure looks delicious!

    • Laura says...

      the first ingredient is “one cup half and half”. :)

    • agnès says...

      I get it now, “half and half” is an ingredient! (I’m french); I thought it was half of something and half of something else!!

  48. Erin says...

    We are so on the same wavelength. We tried a super easy ice cream recipe this weekend: beat 2 cups of Chilled heaving whipping cream to firm peaks, mix in 14 oz sweet and condensed milk and 1 tsp vanilla, add any mix ins and freeze for 6 hours. It is soooooo good!