Ice Cream in a Bag Experiment

ice cream in a bag

Ice Cream is a quintessential part of summer! But it also makes for a great (and delicious) science experiment… No fancy machine or cranking required!

This ‘recipe’ was adapted from Steve Spangler Science.

How To Make Ice Cream In A Bag 

Homemade Ice Cream In A Bag Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup half-&-half (or milk)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla ice
  • 1/2 cup of rock salt

You will also need:  2 sandwich-sized baggies, 2 gallon-sized baggies, and winter gloves.

*You can print off the ice cream in a bag recipe with step-by-step instructions by downloading your own free copy of our Fascinating Science for Kids ebook.

Ice Cream In A Bag Experiment with Step by Step Instructions:

ice cream in a bag experiment

 1. Pour 1/2 cup of half-&-half or milk into one of your sandwich-sized baggies. We used milk and it worked wonderfully. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Get all of the air out and then seal the bag. Place your filled bag into another sandwich-sized baggie and seal.

ice cream in a bag

 2. Put your double-bag inside of a gallon-sized baggie and add your ice and 1/2 cup of rock salt. Place this bag inside another gallon-sized bag (you will have 2 small bags and 1 large bag inside).

ice cream in a bag

 3. Have your child put on some winter gloves and start shaking!


ice cream in a bag

 Shake the bag for about 15-20 minutes, passing it around the various members of the family!

making ice cream in a bag

 I put a dishcloth around the bag when it was Little Brother’s turn…he karate-chopped it more than anything, but it turned out just fine!

how to make ice cream in a bag

 All done! Nice and soft, but still slightly solid!


homemade ice cream in a bag

 Ready to be served! This only makes a serving of ice cream. If you want to double the recipe, you can (just use quart-sized baggies instead of sandwich-sized). Don’t attempt to do any more than doubling, though, or it will be too heavy for the child to carry when you add ice and rock salt.


ice cream in a bag

Little Brother approved!


ice cream in a bag

 Definitely Big Brother approved! He was SUPER excited about how yummy “his” ice cream turned out!


ice cream in a bag

The Science Of Ice Cream In A Bag:

The salt lowers the temperature at which ice freezes, or raises the temperature at which it melts (which is why we use it on the roads in the winter). Instead of melting at 32 degree Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), the rock salt causes the ice to melt at a temperature much lower, depending on how much salt you add. The more rock salt you use, the lower the temperature the ice will melt at. This creates an environment that the ice cream mixture can freeze below the normal 32 degrees. Then the salt/ice slush absorbs the heat from the cream mixture, lowering the temp of the cream and causing the cream to ‘ice’, creating the yummy ice cream texture!

This post was first published May 2012. Last updated 2018.


If you liked making this ice cream in a bag download your free Science eBook,  that has this ice cream in a bag experiment and 14 other science experiments…

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Click here for more fun science activities for kids…

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  1. We used to do this as kids when we spent the night at our grandparents house – except we used 2 coffee cans. Put a small can with the ice cream ingredients in the large can with salt/ice and then us kids would sit on the floor and roll it back and forth between us! Thanks for the recipe, I’ll have to do it this summer with my littles!

  2. I’ve tried this, too, and it really works. Kids love it!! I’ll try the coffee can method – rolling it seems like fun. The bags do get super cold, so don’t forget the gloves. But kids love wearing gloves in the summer! Thanks for reminding me about this fun activity. Renee

  3. My 4 year old son said “This is the better than the real stuff”! Ha! How said that he doesn’t know this IS the real stuff. : )

    May I ask what font you used for the words “ice-cream” ? Love it, and can’t find it anywhere….

    Thanks for your fun posts/blog!

    1. It is a font I used on the online photo editor I used for this particular collage called . Looks like it is called Deftone Stylus. :)

  4. We made this last year – what a simple way to get some quick ice cream. Of course I love my Cuisinart electric ice cream maker but I love that my daughter could actually make the ice cream in a bag herself. It did taste good too!

  5. Hi! Thanks for your fun post, with pics of the kiddos, too! Glad to see that you are doing such a great job of inspiring folks to explore kid-friendly & tasty science! Just wanted to clarify the ‘science’ listed on your post though–I think that you meant to have “freeze” instead of “melt” (the salt lowers the temperature at which the ice freezes, or raises the temperature at which it melts :) ). Then the salt/ice slush absorbs the heat from the cream mixture, lowering the temp of the cream and causing the cream to ‘ice’, creating the yummy icecream texture!

  6. VERY SALTY. It still O.K., but don’t suggest doing half a cup of salt( little bit too much).

    1. Did you add the salt to the cream mixture or to the ice? My understanding is that your ice cream shouldn’t have any salt in it at all!!!

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