More than half of American adults (55%) long to feel like a kid again — so much so, they do many of the same summer activities they used to in childhood, new research suggests.
A survey of 2,000 U.S. adults for National Ice Cream Month in July found that what people miss most from summertime as a child is playing outside (45%), family vacations (43%) and eating lots of ice cream (39%).
The poll revealed ice cream is still a crucial part of people’s summers, as 39% continue to eat it — including 53% of respondents ages 77 and older.
Spending long days by the pool (35%) and riding bikes (35%) were also among the summer activities people have carried with them into adulthood. Gen Zers were more likely to bring on the water balloon fights than other age groups (42%), while millennials opted for backyard or outdoor games (37%).
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of I Love Ice Cream Cakes, the survey discovered the average person feels like a kid again four times a week in summer, with 54% agreeing summer is the most nostalgic time of year.
The top reasons for summer sentimentality include a clearer, more relaxed mind as a result of increased time outdoors (53%), family vacations reminding people of their own childhood trips (51%) and getting to share summertime traditions with their own family (50%). Activities that help bring out people’s inner child include eating ice cream (34%), going on road trips with family (31%), blowing bubbles (29%) and riding a bike (29%).
Parents looking to recreate their favorite summer memories with their kids opt for eating ice cream together (27%), going swimming (27%), having a barbecue (27%), and taking family vacations or road trips (27%).
Overall, the average person said eating ice cream takes them back to their 10-year-old selves. And eating ice cream makes people feel happy (36%), satisfied (34%) and relaxed (30%).
People have no qualms about being playful with ice cream, either. When asked about the weirdest toppings they’ve ever tried, responses ranged from “avocado,” “bacon bits” and “green beans,” to “sweet pickles,” “ketchup and mayonnaise” and even “squid ink.”
“Summertime desserts such as ice cream and ice cream cake are a shareable tradition that bridges generational gaps. No matter their age, 41% of adults recall their very first time biting into an ice cream cake,” said Kimberly O’Brien, spokesperson for I Love Ice Cream Cakes. “Our results show these sweets aren’t just for the kids, but also the kids at heart.”
While eating ice cream remains a nostalgic summer activity, more than half (56%) said their ice cream or ice cream cake preferences have changed since childhood, with millennials the most likely to have a change of heart when it comes to their favorite flavor (62%).
In the heat of summer, eating ice cream was the No. 1 way people cooled off as a kid (38%) followed by jumping in a pool or lake and drinking a cold beverage (both at 36%).
Classics such as chocolate (32%), vanilla (31%) and strawberry (29%) were among people’s favorite flavors in childhood. In an interesting twist, coffee-flavored ice cream was a bigger hit among men than women when they were growing up (24% vs. 17%).
As for the great debate of vanilla vs. chocolate, most preferred them equally (35%), but for those that felt they had to choose, the former edged out its cacao competitor by a mere smidgen (26% vs. 22%). Generationally, though, baby boomers opted for chocolate far more than millennials (41% vs. 18%).
When it comes to their favorite ways of eating ice cream, ice cream cake came out on top (39%), followed by the traditional cone (37%) and then cup and milkshake (both at 36%). People’s favorite ice cream cake components to enjoy were the layers (45%), the chocolate crunchies (42%) and the icing (38%).
When asked what they’d be willing to do for a lifetime supply of ice cream cake, some shared they’d go so far as to shave their eyebrows, give up cell phones, their favorite streaming service, social media or coffee for life, travel over 5,000 miles, kiss a frog, and do “anything legal.”
O’Brien added, “In this poll, ice cream cake was the No. 1 way fans enjoy ice cream. To celebrate National Ice Cream Month, we’re encouraging folks to share the fun by creating over-the-top ice cream cake decorations and making the cake the centerpiece of any summer gathering. You can even make it a competition and have friends and family vote for the best cake decorations.”
AMERICANS’ WEIRDEST ICE CREAM TOPPINGS (free responses)
- Chocolate and chicken
- Coffee grounds
- Garlic powder
- Bacon bits
- Ketchup and mayonnaise
- Squid ink in Japan
- Green beans
FAVORITE WAYS TO EAT ICE CREAM
- Ice cream cake (39%)
- Ice cream cone (37%)
- Milkshake (36%)
- Cup (36%)
- Banana split (35%)
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