Do you need to teach your kids how to swallow pills instead of chew them? Here’s a strategy that’s worked for every child I’ve tried it with.
My son Owen has a g-tube. For the first several years of his life, all of his medications were liquid and we simply put them through the tube. Then in 2012 he switched to the Ketogenic diet. Since liquid medicine had more carbs, they were no longer an option. For the first time, I had to figure out how to teach him how to swallow pills.
Back then his doctor recommended simply crushing the pills and mixing them with water to run through the tube. That didn’t work. I kept clogging the tube and that was a mess.
So I started experimenting with ways to get Owen to swallow his medication.
The easiest way I found was to simply put the medication on a spoonful of something that Owen was eating. When he was on his special diet, it was usually Jello mixed with heavy cream.
Now that he’s off the diet, it’s most often applesauce or yogurt.
Since then, I’ve also taught four of my other kids to swallow pills using this same method. It works!
Here’s some important tips I discovered along the way, to help you successfully teach your kids how to swallow pills.
1. Don’t Mix the Meds Into the Dish of Food
You do not want to simply dump the pills into a bowl of food and expect your kids to eat it. I made this mistake with Owen a couple of times before I finally figured it out! You don’t want to mix the medication into the food.
Doing this means your child has to eat the entire dish. It also means it’s way harder to track which pills actually make it down the hatch. You can easily lose a pill. Or have one start to dissolve in the dish, which makes it taste worse.
So when you’re teaching a child how to swallow a pill, never place the medication inside a dish of food.
2. Do Place Each Pill Directly on the Spoon
So how do you combine the medicine and the food if you don’t dump the pills in?
You place the medication directly on a spoon. That way you can feed it directly and ensure it makes it where it’s supposed to go. Or your child can use the spoon and feed themselves. Either way works.
I’ve found it best to do one spoonful for each individual pill, but you can definitely experiment with doing two or more at the same time.
If your child has to take a large pill, I recommend cutting it in half first. You can use a simple pill cutter, like this one from Amazon.
3. Do Select a Food Your Child Likes
You don’t want your child to fight this process. Pick a food that’s highly enjoyed. Since my kids all like applesauce, that’s our go-to for any pills that need to be taken.
We’ve also used:
- Ice cream
You want foods that you naturally eat with a spoon. And ones that don’t need to be chewed. This is key to success.
Most medication that needs swallowed tastes disgusting! You don’t want your child to chew it.
Give your child a food that is just swallowed instead of one that needs chewed first. Doing so saves many taste buds and makes the process happen with less struggle.
4. Do Transition to Taking a Pill with Water
There will come a time when your child is ready to learn to take pills with water. Typically I found this to be a year or two after they’re comfortably taking them with food. But, it took a lot longer for my disabled child, and a lot less time for one of my other kids. The others took about a year.
Once they’ve learned to swallow a pill with food, have your child try placing the pill in their mouth and washing it down with a big drink of water.
If it doesn’t go down the first time, have them try again. If they keep struggling, bring the food of choice back out and do it that way. Then you can try again with water the next time.
Remember to praise them for trying!
5. Do Practice When Appropriate
Unless your child is on daily medication, this isn’t a skill that you will practice a lot. So, do work on it when you get the chance. Practice makes perfect – it may take a couple of attempts for hte pill to make it down their throat.
Just stay calm and keep helping them try again. They will eventually get it. Patience is key when teaching your kids anything, including how to swallow a pill.
Have You Taught Your Children to Swallow Pills?
Did you use the food on a spoon method that I did, or a different one? I’d love to hear what technique worked best for you in the comments section.
This post was originally published on Aug 24, 2016. It’s been updated and refreshed.