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12:19 PM

Taking Medicine: Teaching Your Child How to Swallow a Pill

Taking medicine can be hard for kids, especially when they have to swallow a pill. But with a little practice and these tips below, you can help them learn how to do it.

Pill Swallowing

Tips for parents:

  • Be relaxed. The more relaxed you are as a teacher, the more relaxed your child will be.

  • You should only practice for 30 minutes or less at a time.

  • Stop if your child gets frustrated and try again later.

  • Show your child how to swallow a pill.

  • Have your child chew a cracker and spit it out on a napkin. This shows your child how much they swallow when they eat and that the size of a chewed up cracker is larger than most pills.

  • Use a sticker chart.

When it’s time to swallow a pill, have you child:

  • Choose what to drink. Water or juice are usually good choices. (Always check the instructions on your child’s medication or ask your pharmacist if there are any drinks that should not be used with your child’s medicine.)

  • Sit up straight.

  • Take a deep breath and relax.

  • Take a drink before putting the pill on the tongue.

  • Put the pill on the back of the tongue.

  • Take a drink.

Other ideas you can try if your child has trouble swallowing a pill:

  • Put the pill in the freezer for a few minutes. This may help if the pill has a bad taste.

  • Have your child suck on an ice cube or a popsicle before trying to swallow a pill. This helps numb your child’s taste buds and makes it easier for the pill to slide down your child’s throat.

  • Coat the outside of the pill:
    • Use Magic Shell (a chocolate ice cream topping) on the pill and put in the freezer for a minute. It should be cold and taste like chocolate. (Make sure your child doesn’t try to chew it!)
    • Use a Fruit Roll-Up.
    • Have you child swallow part of a Jell-O Jiggler.

Pill Swallowing Practice

You should always explain to your child that the medicine they’re taking is not candy. But, in some cases, practicing with different sized candy can help your child become more comfortable swallowing a pill. Start with small candy and work up to larger candy. Here are some examples:

  • Sprinkles

  • Cake dots or slightly larger sprinkles

  • Mini M&M’s

  • Tic Tacs

  • Regular M&M’s

  • Mike and Ikes

  • Lemonheads

Show your child only one size candy at a time. If your reach a candy size your child is unable to swallow, go back to the last candy size your child swallowed. Have your child swallow that size again to end the practice session with your child feeling successful.

Crushing or Mixing Pills

(Talk with your pharmacist before crushing, freezing or changing any pill in any way!)

Ideas to try if your pharmacist says it’s okay:

  • Crush pills and place them in a small amount of food the child likes (applesauce, ice cream, etc.). Make sure you child eats all the food.

  • Mix crushed pills with chocolate syrup. It can hide the taste well.

  • Melt Starbursts fruit chews in the microwave to soften. Then, place crushed pills inside.

  • Mix crushed pills in jelly and have your child swallow a spoonful.

  • Mix crushed pills in a sweet fruit drink, orange juice or cranberry concentrate.


Learn more about Child Life at Children’s Mercy. The Child Life Department provides services to make the hospital experience easier and more comfortable for patients and families.