Children who don’t exercise their brains during the summer months may suffer from “summer slide” — returning to school knowing less than before they left. However, understanding how and why summer slide happens can ameliorate its impact.

With a new school year starting and children returning to classrooms all across the country, the kids who didn’t exercise their brains during the summer will likely experience some degree of “summer slide” — in other words, they’ll perform worse on the same standardized tests following the summer break than they would’ve before vacation commenced.

Although it’s too late to conjure a stimulating summer for your child this year, the National Summer Learning Association’s “Summer Starts in September” planning guide proclaims, “As soon as one summer ends, it's time to start planning for the next one!” In that vein, then, here are some ideas to consider in planning for summer 2014.

CBS News published an article Monday — headlined “Museum makes learning fun, helps stop the summer slide” — that extolls the virtues of a visit to a New York City math museum: “Opened in December 2012, the National Museum of Mathematics features exhibits that bring classroom skills to life, says co-executive director Glen Whitney. Thousands of wide-eyed students (have) spent hours rolling around on coaster rollers, where they're surprised to find that you can smoothly roll on acorn-shaped ‘balls.’ In the Enigma Cafe, they work on puzzles; at Human Tree, they see their bodies turn into fractals. The square-tired tricycle, which uses calculus and has to be kept on a precise track in order to work, is by far the most popular exhibit.”

On Aug. 14, Atlanta Journal Constitution education columnist Maureen Downey explored why summer slide is more common and pronounced among lower-income children.

“Kids once came back from summer camp with a t-shirt, a potholder and poison ivy,” Downey wrote. “Now, children go to camps that teach them French cooking, filmmaking and fencing. As a result, these sophisticated campers return to school this month academically enriched from their summer experiences. That’s not the case for less affluent classmates, who head back to classes impoverished after a summer of few opportunities and little enrichment. …

“For low-income kids, those public institutions that feed their intellectual growth — schools, after-school programs, community centers — are not replaced by private opportunities in the summer, such as marine biology camp on the Georgia coast or fly fishing with dad in Wyoming. This leads to a loss of academic skills over the long break.”

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Earlier in August on the New York Times’ Fixes blog, Peg Tyre profiled an innovative solution to summer slide: the Practice Makes Perfect program in New York, in which “two struggling students … are paired with academically stronger students four years older.”

“At the core of the program is the almost universal desire of younger children to gain acceptance and approval from their older (and presumably cooler) peers,” Tyre reported. “By grouping academically successful children with ones who struggle, (Practice Makes Perfect) harnesses positive peer pressure to reduce poor behavior and reinforce the notion that learning takes patience, and practice can be fun.”