Best Ice Cream Maker For Kids

What’s more fun than making ice cream? Making ice cream with kids! You’ve never seen such pure, unfiltered happiness! We went on a quest to find the best ice cream makers for kids—yes, we drafted actual kiddos to see which machines were the most fun. Which were easiest to use? For parties? For soft serve? Here are the winners.

FYI: We’ve been rating and reviewing products for kids, families and the home since 1994. We don’t take money or freebies from the brands we review, to keep our work independent. Our reviews are 100% reader-supported. So thanks for reading this article!

Best Fun Overall

Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball
Look, ma! No electricity! Yes, this ice cream maker teaches basic science properties like freezing . . . and how much fun it is to make ice cream! Easy to use. Only makes 1 pint, however.

Best Fun Overall: Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball

Why transform ice cream making into a science experiment? Why not?

This simple ball teaches the properties of freezing and movement—add ice, rock salt and ice cream mix. Thirty minutes later with vigorous shaking and rolling (the polycarbonate ball can take a licking), you have ice cream!

How did the rock salt aid in the freezing process? What was happening side the ball as the ice cream formed? Why is ice cream so delicious? These are fun questions to explore as you make a pint of ice cream.

What We Liked

• No electricity needed. Except to create the ice, of course!

• Fun!

• Easy to use!

• Shake, rattle and roll. Ice cream mix goes in one side, ice and rock salt into the other side.

What Needs Work

• Leaks? We didn’t have a problem with this, but we see reports from a small minority of parents who said it leaked during the shaking process. Check to make sure it is completely sealed before shaking!

• Hard to open. It takes a bit of effort (probably an adult) to open the ball after the ice cream is made.

• Only 1 pint of ice cream. 

• The ball can break if your little scientists are too rough. Yes, the ball is made from polycarbonate and is durable . . . but that doesn’t mean it can’t break if dropped on a hard surface.

Best Soft Serve Maker

Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix It In Soft Serve 1-1/2 Quart Ice Cream Maker
Fun! This family-friendly maker whips up a batch of soft serve in 20-25 minutes. Three mix-in containers are kid favorites. Easy to use and clean. Downside: it is very tall and bulky.

Best Soft Serve Maker: Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix It In Soft Serve 1-1/2 Quart Ice Cream Maker

Here’s a great ice cream machine for the whole family—we loved how easy it was to use.

The star, as far as kids go, is the mix-ins. This machine has three containers that can hold sprinkles, chips or other mix-ins. These are dispenses at the same time the soft server ice cream drops into a cone! Fun!

What We Liked

• Simple to use. Pour in the mix in the top and hit the button to start.

• Fun as a family project.

• You had us at “mix-ins.”

• Takes 20-25 minutes for a batch. Hint: pre-cool the mixture to make it go faster.

• Removable drip tray under dispenser arm is easy to clean.

• Includes recipe book. Or you can use a pre-made mix.

• Capacity at 1.5 quarters good for several cones, which have their own holder.

What Needs Work

• Tall, large footprint. This thing takes up a good amount of counter space.

• Lots of pieces that can get lost. 

• Pricey. 

• Can’t make batch after batch. The freezer bowl has to be kept at zero degrees to work well. Hence, you can’t make more than one batch at a time.

• Prep time to pre-chill the batter. That takes another hour or so, especially if you are doing a homemade recipe.

• Not great for parties. This maker only has a 1.5 quart capacity . . . so probably not the best choice for parties.

• Eventually bowl has to be replaced. Yep, the freezer bowl can crack or break over time—we had to replace ours from the similar Cuisinart ICE-30BC once in 5 years.

• Must have room in your freezer. Yep, the bowl takes up room in your freezer and that could be a negative if you don’t have much room. Yes, you could only freeze the bowl when you want to make soft serve ice cream . . . but that takes freezing it overnight (Cuisinart says a minimum of 8 hours at zero degrees).

• No spontaneity. As you can see from the requirements above, you can’t just take out this ice cream maker and quickly make a batch of ice cream. You have to plan in advance!

Best for Parties

Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker
Our favorite feature is the clear lid on this maker—you can watch progress of a batch, which only takes 20-30 minutes. Quiet and simple to use—but you must add ice and salt.

Best for Parties: Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker (4 Quarts)

Planning an ice cream party? Need to make ice cream for a dozen kiddos?

Our top ice cream maker for parties is the Nostalgia WICM4L Electric Ice Cream Maker. It pumps out FOUR quarts in about 20-30 minutes. Yes, four quarts . . . many other ice cream makers we tested had just half that capacity.

This maker churns out excellent ice cream, is easy to use and quiet—at a price that is easy on the wallet.

What We Liked

 Looks like old fashion ice cream maker. But good news: there is no hand crank—an electric motor stirs the ice cream.

• Quick. Takes just 20 to 30 minutes to make a batch of ice cream.

• Large capacity at 4 quarts. That’s twice that of the Cuisinart unit we recommend below.

• Good for parties. With that larger capacity, this maker would work well for gatherings and kids parties.

• Easy to clean.

• See-through lid. We loved the clear lid, which lets you watch the progress.

• No need to pre-freeze the canister. That’s one of the big disadvantages of the Cuisinart—you must pre-freeze the bowl at 0 degrees overnight.

What Needs Work

• Have to add ice and rock salt.

• Shipping damage. Be sure to check this maker when it arrives to see if any parts are broken. The unit we tested was fine, but we see reports of shipping damage from other parents. Of course, that can happen with any appliance that’s shipped—it’s always best to inspect it immediately!

• Uneven freezing. Sometimes the batter will freeze on the outer wall of the canister, but not toward the middle. That creates uneven freezing, which sometimes causes the paddle to not spin freely. To avoid this problem, you need to make sure the batter is very cold when starting. Also: you can stop the machine and scrape the sides—that isn’t fun, however.

Best Fancy Flavors

Cuisinart ECE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker
Loved this maker, which churns out ice cream in just 30-40 minutes (not including prep time). Spout allows you to add fruit, nuts, etc. Caveats: only 2 qt. capacity, loud, batter must be pre-chilled.

Best Fancy Flavors: Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet and Ice Cream Maker

Once you start making ice cream, you quickly get hooked. You first start with basic chocolate or strawberry . . . and before you know it, you get tempted to do more fancy flavors with mixed in fruit, nuts, chips and the like.

When you want to do more fancy flavors, we’d suggest Cuisinart’s ICE-30BC. This maker’s key feature: an ingredient spout that lets you throw mix-ins into your ice cream to your heart’s content.

We’ve owned this ice cream maker for 5 years and it is a workhorse—it does an excellent job at making ice cream and frozen yogurt! Super easy to use, it works automatically (no hand cranking) and takes about 30 to 40 minutes to make one batch (2 quarts).

Yes, we tried out other ice cream makers (seven in total), but still think the Cuisinart ICE-30BC is the best for next level homemade ice cream. That said, there are some significant drawbacks (see below) that make it less ideal for parties and other uses.

What We Liked

• Easy to use. You freeze a double-insulated freezer bowl and then put that into the maker. Pour in batter and turn it on! 30 to 40 minutes later, you have ice cream.

• Recipe book included.

• Gelato! Yes, this maker can do gelato.

• Spout allows you to add fruit, nuts and more. Rocky Road? Butter Pecan? No problem.

• Affordable.

• Easy to clean.

• Stainless steel housing.

What Needs Work

• Loud. That’s probably our biggest dislike with this ice cream maker—it is LOUD!

• Can’t make batch after batch. The freezer bowl has to be kept at zero degrees to work well. Hence, you can’t make more than one batch at a time.

• Batter must be pre-chilled. That takes another hour or so, especially if you are using melted chocolate.

• Not great for parties. This maker only has a two quart capacity . . . so probably not the best choice for parties.

• Eventually bowl has to be replaced. Yep, the freezer bowl can crack or break over time—we had to replace ours once in 5 years.

• Must have room in your freezer. Yep, the bowl takes up room in your freezer and that could be a negative if you don’t have much room. Yes, you could only freeze the bowl when you want to make ice cream . . . but that takes freezing it overnight.

• No spontaneity. As you can see from the requirements above, you can’t just take out this ice cream maker and make a batch of ice cream in 30 minutes. You have to plan in advance!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for children, families and the home since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported.

Picture credit: Patrick Fore

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