Teaching children to swallow pills

Learning to swallow pills is difficult for many children. One technique I find helpful is to “hide” the pill in another food before attempting to swallow it. Bread is an excellent choice because it’s sticky and easily encases the pill. Before you suggest the technique to your child, remind her that she swallows large chunks of food all the time. The reason this trick works is because the bread “fakes out” her throat so it doesn’t know a pill is coming. This is how it works.

  • Have your child chew a small piece of bread.
  • Once the bread is gooey, ask him to push the pill into the center of the bread.
  • Next, ask him to move the bread/pill mixture to the back of his mouth and swallow it with a sip of water.
  • Have your child practice with small pieces of candy like tic-tacs. Once this has been mastered, she can graduate to M&Ms and capsule-shaped candy like Mike and Ike.
  • Once your child has done this a few times, swallowing a pill is usually easy.

I use a variation of this technique for children who take time-release capsules, but can’t learn to swallow the pill. Time-release capsules can be opened and their contents can be mixed into pudding or applesauce. To ensure that children don’t chew the beads, I have them practice with candy sprinkles. Once they have done this a few times, they can accomplish the same thing without crushing the granules of their medication.

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