PLAY.  It’s one of the simplest words in the English language.  It’s a word that we’ve all known and used since we were toddlers.  It’s a word my 3 year old already used with me this morning.  “Daddy, I don’t want breakfast right now, I just want to play.”  I know, right?  But it is also a very poignant acronym.  Now, as much as I’d love the accolades for coming up with something this clever, I can’t.  It’s someone else’s brain-child and I am just passing it on and sharing it with you.  It stands for Participate in the Lives of America’s Youth (PLAY).  Pretty good, eh?  And very important to think about.  This is the next generation of American adults.  These are our next doctors, lawyers, builders and soldiers.  Have you seen them lately?  It’s no secret that American obesity is on the rise.  According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there are about 97 million obese Americans.  That’s  about 1 out of 3.  Pretty bad.  But it’s not just the adults that are in this category, it’s kids too.  The CDC says that almost 20% of America’s youth are obese.  Triple what it was in 1980.  Let’s see, what has changed since 1980?  Nintendo, X-Box, Playstation and the internet for starters.  Kids spend more time now in front of screens and less time in front of nature.  It’s amazing.  My 3 year old son, Alex, can go into the office, pick out his Thomas game, load it in the computer and play.  Works the mouse like a pro, and knows what keys to hit in every situation.  I didn’t know this stuff until high school, because computers didn’t exist.  Now it’s rare to find a household with less than 2.  The difference is that in our home, we only allow the boys to play the computer occasionally.  They spend much more time doing puzzles, playing games and riding their bikes and scooters around the driveway.  One of the biggest fun things for them is to take walks after dinner.  They do extra-curriculars like tumbling, soccer and T-ball.  What this ultimately means is that my kids are less likely to be a bad statistic, and yours should, too.  It doesn’t take any parental effort to open the back door and say “go play”.  Or turn off the TV and go outside.  And it starts at the parental level.  Get involved with  your kids and they will learn those good habits.  Our parents did it for us, and now it’s our turn to pay it forward.  Get up, get out and take your kids with you.  Not only will it develop good habits and love of physical activity, but it will create terrific memories for them and they will love you for it.  Go.  Participate.  PLAY!