There's no debating kids are a tad more "plump" these days than they used to be.
We've got all sorts of excuses for our fat kids -- from lousy food in school to too much time in front of a TV screen.
I argue it's something far more sinister. It even has a medical-sounding name. It's called nature-deficit disorder. I'm willing to bet if you take the time to look, you'll see victims of the "ailment" all around you. It a world where the average kid gets an iPad before he gets a pocketknife, it's a virtual pandemic.
The term was first coined by Richard Louv in his book "Last Child in the Woods." The sociologist argues that we teach our youngest generations that history is in the past. Thanks to technology, he says, we've pushed Mother Nature aside. We've tamed our wild side.
He's right. Here's a test to prove it.
Find a nearby youngster and ask him to tell you the difference between a blackberry bush and poison ivy. After that, ask him to tell you the difference between an iPhone and a Blackberry. Kind of sad, isn't it?
But it's not the kid's fault. It's ours. As parents we often use technology as a crutch. It's easy to plop our kids in front of a TV and let the networks do all the raising.
Nature-deficit disorder is not a flaw in a child's DNA. It's not something they can catch on a school bus. It's a man-made "disease."
Fortunately, there is an easy cure. It's simple. Open the back door.
Last weekend, my wife and I took our son camping for his second birthday. His grandmothers have already bought him everything he needs (and much more), so we figured there would be no better gift.
I've done some incredible things outdoors but, hands down, this trip tops the list. Any hint of my son's nature-deficit disorder vanished the moment he glanced up from the campfire and said "star."
And if that wasn't enough proof of a cure, we got it when we walked inside our house and the little guy wanted to go right back outside. TV was boring compared to the show Mother Nature was putting on beneath the rocks in the garden.
With Father's Day on Sunday, I offer a simple challenge. Be a father. Take your kids outside. You don't have to go to a state park or a remote forest. All the medicine to cure nature-deficit disorder is right outside your back door.
Flip over some rocks and check out the bugs that squirm away. Take a look at the passing clouds. Or take the time to explain how a tree can grow that big with nothing more than water and soil for nourishment.
Our kids need nature. Without it, they're sick.
-- Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.