Visit These Fun Places to Prevent Summer Slide

Summer vacation. Those two words conjure up the happiest, most carefree memories of childhood. But aside from lazy, hazy days, summer brings something else: a phenomenon experts call “summer slide.” On average, student achievement scores decline over summer vacation by one month as compared to where they were in June, states a report by the Brookings Institution. And the loss was larger at middle and high school grades than in elementary school.

These days, between camp, vacations, birthday parties, and sports, kids don’t have much time to reinforce the academic skills they learned during the school year. And even if they did, there’s no way you’re actually going to make your kid do math worksheets instead of hitting the beach.

So, however understandable the summer learning loss is, the result is kids, and their teachers, have to play catch-up in September.

What’s a fun-minded, but achievement-conscious, parent to do? Compromise, of course. We scoured our region to identify fascinating places you can take the kids that have an educational spin, yet still have that “school’s out!” vibe. No matter where you live, or what your kid’s personality is like, you’ll find the perfect idea on this list.


If he’s a nature-lover, explore Piermont Marsh & Pier

Piermont, Rockland County

A federal estuarine sanctuary, the Piermont Marsh spans 2 miles on the western shore of the Tappan Zee. “The pier is a great scenic walk and has a lot of history,” says Stephanie Mullen, a mom in Blauvelt.

Families can hike or bike the trails, kayak, or canoe. If you have a license, you can fish or crab off the mile-long pier while taking in views of the Hudson River and Palisades Ridge. Birds are everywhere; during the summer, keep an eye out for species such as double-crested cormorants, ruddy ducks, blue jays, yellow-rumped warblers, and bald eagles. Harbor seals and snapping turtles have also been spotted in the area. If you’d like to bring a picnic lunch, it’s allowed at adjacent Tallman Mountain State Park.

There’s also a fascinating historical aspect to this destination. During World War II, more than half a million soldiers left for Europe from the pier, and those who came home returned directly to it. Every Memorial Day, a three-story high “watchfire” is lit for 24 hours at the end of the pier to symbolically light the way home for the soldiers who perished in the conflict.


If she says math is boring, visit National Museum of Mathematics

National Museum of Mathematics
Courtesy National Museum of Mathematics
Harmony of the Spheres at the National Museum of Mathematics is an interactive musical sculpture.

11 E. 26th St., Nomad, Manhattan 

Some kids can get turned off to math when they associate it with dull drills to find the right answer. The antidote? Seeing math for what it is: the patterns that undergird the world around us. Enter “MoMath” with its more than 30 interactive exhibits, including a laser beam “wall,” a Jumbotron floor that illuminates the spatial relationship of everyone standing on it, a design studio for creating 3-D designs, and a café devoted to digital puzzles. And good luck dragging your kids away from Robot Swarm, an interactive exhibit that has glowing, robotic creatures that resemble crabs reacting to their every move based on one of several directives.


If he has a big imagination, head to Old Bethpage Village Restoration

Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Courtesy Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Head to Old Bethpage Village Restoration to catch a baseball game played with 1860 rules and equipment.

1303 Round Swamp Road, Bethpage, Nassau County, Long Island

Long Island kids have been taking field trips to this Colonial Williamsburg-esque hamlet, snacking on root beer and pretzels at the Noon Inn bar and buying candy sticks at the Layton General Store, since the 1970s. The authentic homes and shops—the oldest built in 1730—will entrance any kid who likes to imagine what life was like in another time. A blacksmith hammers away in his shop, while across the way the hatter is putting the finishing touches on a man’s chapeau. Women are sewing and knitting, candles are being made, pottery is being shaped, and tin is being worked into housewares.

The village runs special programs year-round. Two of the most popular in the summer are the Civil War encampment weekends and baseball games played using 1860 rules and equipment. “Jack, who’s in little league, loved watching this old-time game!” shares Melissa Koehler of Seaford. If your kid is really enamored of the whole experience when you visit, you may want to sign him up for one of the summer “Junior Apprentice” weeks. He’ll go to school in an 1845 schoolhouse, make ice cream with a crank, do farm chores, make a scarecrow (a necessity, not a decoration), play 1860s games, and take part in military drills, something even 10-year-olds did back then.


If she thinks libraries are just for books, spend time at Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch

Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, is a 1941 art deco landmark. 

10 Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

If your child stopped asking to go to the library when she was 5, this is the perfect place to reignite her interest. The Central Branch in Brooklyn, a 1941 art deco landmark, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It rivals the better-known New York Public Library in the wow-factor, thanks to the 50-foot-high entry portico and 15 bronze sculptures of famous characters and authors of American literature. 

Far from being a storehouse of books overseen by a shushing librarian, BPL will surprise and delight any kid who hasn’t been to a library in a while. The Tech Loft houses 27 computers for children ages 16 and younger. The Universal Maker Space will inspire kids to put down their phone (for a few minutes, anyway) and get creative. With a parent’s supervision, kids can take over the amateur recording studio, equipped with an iMac editing workstation, DSLR camera, and microphone, to make their own audio or video masterpiece. High school students can learn new computer skills in a two-week summer technology institute, and then help patrons use library computers (fulfilling school community service requirements and polishing up college applications).

Before you go, duck into the Popular Library department and introduce your kid to ancient relics: a typewriter and a phone book.


If he’s not interested unless it’s digital, visit New York Hall of Science

New York Hall of Science
Courtesy New York Hall of Science
Connected Worlds shows kids how their actions impact the rest of planet Earth.

47-01 111th St., Corona, Queens

Presented in the Great Hall, Connected Worlds is an exhibit that shows kids, in real time, how even their slightest movements impact the rest of planet Earth. Six environments are fed by a 38-foot-high waterfall that flows across an interactive floor. It’ll be crystal-clear how what we do here has repercussions across the world, and vice versa. 

Mini (15-minute) interactive science demonstrations are happening throughout the summer, during which NYSCI Explainers demonstrate easy-to-grasp experiments in chemistry, physics, and biology.


If she hates art class, walk around Hudson River Museum

Hudson River Museum
Courtesy Hudson River Museum
Hudson River Museum offers fun art workshops for all ages.

511 Warburton Ave., Yonkers, Westchester County

Does your child think art period is a waste of time? Give her a boost (and make next year angst-free) with a visit to Hudson River Museum. The three summer exhibits running concurrently showcase art that isn’t exactly traditional.

Force Field displays the work of Brooklyn artist Christine Hiebert: line drawings, made with charcoal, graphite, and ink, and even dirt. 

Artist Ellen Kozak and composer Scott D. Miller collaborated on Riverthatflowsbothways, a four-channel video installation. Taking its name from the translation of the Native American word for the Hudson River, the videos don’t show scenic views or much realism at all, but instead have viewers feeling the movement of a river. 

Variations on a Theme displays the minimalist art of Donald Judd, a collection of 16 etchings. Judd wanted his art to be self-evident, meaning whatever the viewer sees is what it is. Your child will go home knowing she can be an artist after all.  

Among the permanent exhibits, Red Grooms: The Bookstore, a funky, immersive, pop-art installation, is a kid magnet. “Every time we went there, Grace made a beeline for The Bookstore,” recalls Darcy Falcone, a mom of two in New Rochelle.


If Stephen Hawking was his hero, go to The Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium

The Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium
Courtesy Vanderbilt Museum
The Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium recently underwent a $4-million renovation.

180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, Suffolk County, Long Island

Long Island parents with a kid who’s into astronomy need not truck in to the Upper West Side for stellar educational fun. The Vanderbilt’s Reichert Planetarium recently got a $4-million makeover. The theater offers top-notch educational programs for families, some developed by the most prestigious planetariums around the world. The sky shows recreate celestial events before your eyes on a 60-foot dome.

“The Vanderbilt has been one of our go-tos for ages,” says Ruthie Bein, a mom of four in Babylon. “And when you’re done with the planetarium, there’s an interesting museum and mansion on the same beautiful property.”

The rooftop observatory is open every Friday night, weather permitting. Led by a professional astronomy educator, you and your kids can look deep into the night sky through the Vanderbilt’s 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope.


Kid-Friendly Museums in the New York Area

Day Trips for Families Around the New York Region

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Main image: A federal estuarine sanctuary, the Piermont Marsh spans 2 miles on the western shore of the Tappan Zee.
Courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation