Teaching Kids to Swallow Pills

Think swallowing a pill is hard? Convinced you’ll never teach your child to do it? Well, think again. You can do it, and you can even make it fun.

Once you understand the proper mechanics of swallowing, it’s as simple as Tic-Tac-Go!

Down for Down

PillsFirst: try to swallow when you’re looking up at the ceiling. Pretty hard, right? The muscles of the mouth and throat are not designed to work in that orientation; they’re designed to swallow food when looking straight ahead, or when looking down at your food.

Try again to swallow while holding your head toward your chest. It’s easy, right?

But when trying to swallow a pill, what do most people do? Toss it back and look up, right? A hard object, trying to go down in the least-effective position. It’s a recipe for choking, gagging, nasty medicine tastes, and frustration.

Practice Pills

Try this instead. For kids, use their favorite flavor of Tic-Tacs (mini M&M’s work well too) — which are fun, and a whole lot less threatening than that sure-to-be-nasty pill that Mom says MUST go down. Try it when they’re not sick, so they’re ready and able the next time they are.

Assemble Your Materials

  • Your child’s favorite flavor of Tic-Tacs (or Mini M&Ms)
  • A silly straw
  • Your child’s favorite drink

Down it Goes

1. Place the Tic-Tac on the tongue, in the middle, near the back of the mouth.

2. Drink through the straw, watching the liquid come up through the loops and twists (The distraction of the straw is key here!)

3. Hey, where’d that Tic-Tac (or that M&M… or, one day, that pill) go?

It can be that fun, and that simple.

Dr. Sarah Springer, a Kids Plus Provider and Shareholder, serves as the Medical Director of Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania