How to Teach Your Child to Swallow a Pill (No Spoon Full of Sugar Needed!)

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Do you resort to endless bribery just to get medicine down the hatch? It’s has been a battle for the entire five years of our son’s life. When we only had to worry about it every few months or so, it wasn’t a huge deal. Then it all changed.

Has He Ever Taken a Pill?

Back in September, we discovered that our son would have to take a pill each night before bed to help with this restless leg syndrome, a symptom of his sleep apnea. If you want to know more about that journey, check out my post. I had psyched myself up for it, but you know when the pharmacist puts a note on the package that reads, “Has he ever take a pill?” that there might be some challenges ahead.

The Crushing Method

The doctor’s initial recommendation was to crush the pill on a treat or put it in apple sauce and that he’d eat it right up. Nice try, doc. Apparently this doctor has never tried this drug herself because this stuff is bitter. I mean nasty. Pretty sure no food is masking this taste unless you just don’t have taste buds.

The first night our son fought it and took it. Night No. 2, there was no chance. As I said before, I’m a mom who’s not above bribery. I even offered candy before bed. No go. So what were my options? I was going to have to teach him how to swallow a pill.

Swish, Swish, Swallow

I decided to cut the tiny pill in quarters and see if by some miracle I could teach him to swallow the pill. I used a shot glass (yes, you read that correctly) and filled it with his juice of choice. I explained to him that he would put the pill on the back of his tongue. Then take a big gulp of juice. Swish it around in his mouth. Then swallow. It didn’t work the first couple of times, but we were both determined. Then it worked.

After a month, he said he was ready to try taking a half a pill. Same technique. Mouth full of juice. I’m talking full bulging cheeks. Shake your head around and go. Again, it took a couple times and then he had the hang of it.

By about two months in, he asked if he could try to swallow an entire pill. He did. Smooth sailing ever since.

So to recap:

  1. Cut your pill in quarters.
  2. Have a small glass of juice ready.
  3. Place the pill toward the back of the mouth.
  4. Take a big gulp of juice, enough to fill the cheeks.
  5. Swish around.
  6. Swallow.
  7. Stick tongue out to confirm the pill is gone.
  8. Celebrate with high fives.

Hope this helps on your journey. What are your tips for getting kids to take medicine?

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Ashley grew up in Augusta and has lived in the Wichita area for most of her life. She works full time as vice president at a marketing agency. She'd been in the workforce for 15 years and faced years of fertility challenges before being blessed with son Charlie in 2015. She met her husband, Josh, in kindergarten. The house-divided college sweethearts attended KU and K-State, starting their careers in Dallas before returning to Wichita in 2003. Not just a full-time executive and mom, she owns Josh Cook Golf Academy with her namesake husband. Ashley also enjoys volunteering as Wichita Aero Club vice chair, driving a golf cart with Josh and Charlie, drinking wine and spending time with family.