Most children’s medicines are available in chewable or liquid form, but there will come a time when your kid has to swallow a pill. And that can be a weird, scary thing. Here’s a tip from pediatricians that will lessen the struggle: Practice with candy. Doctors Avani Modi and Lisa Ingerski of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recommend using candies (PDF) of increasing sizes-cupcake sprinkles, Nerds, mini M&M’s, regular M&M’s and Good & Plenty-to teach your kid how to swallow real pills.
Here’s what to do:
- Demonstrate how to swallow a pill either with one of the candies or with a real pill that you have to take.
- Have your kid practice taking a big sip of water (or other non-carbonated drink they enjoy) without swishing it around in their mouth.
- Start with the smallest candy. Place it on your kid’s tongue and have them take a sip of water and swallow the “pill.” (Make sure to call it a pill and not candy-you don’t want them to think an aspirin is the same thing as a Skittle). Do this several times to help them build confidence.
- Move onto the next candy size. If a pill won’t go down, encourage your child to take another sip. If they get frustrated, take a break. Modi and Ingerski write that each session should only last about 5 to 10 minutes. It might take a number of sessions over multiple days to work up to the largest pill.
It’s mostly about overcoming anxiety. If your child is extremely resistant or has has gagged or vomited when trying to swallow a pill in the past, talk to your pediatrician about alternatives. Do not cut or grind any medication without first consulting with your pharmacist, as that can be dangerous.