When young kids are just starting to show interest in running with mom or dad, you have the unique opportunity to help plant the seeds for a lifelong love.

Build Up Gradually. My first “official” run with my then-four-year-old was about half-mile to a nearby park. It was fun, but it was too far: by the time we got there, she was done. So, we sat and picked tiny daisies from the grass for a while before—slowly—walking home. My advice: start small. Try a short outing around the block, jogging one side and walking the next. While you’re already at the park, run together across the blacktop, pause to hit the slides, then jog to the swings. Mixing walking and running is a smart way to gradually build endurance.

Keep an eye on your child’s energy level. Offer water when needed. If your child wants to push hard for a bit, great. If they want to rest, great. Both of you will be happier if you let go of your usual workout agenda and match your pace and priorities to theirs.

Have Fun! Kids who have fun while being active will want to be active more often. Play “I Spy” along the way. Give lots of high fives. My preschooler loves to celebrate how far we’ve gone, peeking back (at the bottom of a hill, a rock outcropping, a funny dog) and making note of how far away we are now. Be genuine with your encouragement—“We are getting stronger!” or “You are doing a great job of listening to your body and taking breaks when you need them!” And don’t forget to give yourself a little praise as well. You’re not just building stronger bodies, but your relationship, too. //