700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Tips and Tricks for Swallowing Pills and Liquid Medications

Jan 06, 2022
Parent giving a child a medication.

We know that taking medication can sometimes be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions that our child life specialists have found to be helpful for both pills and liquid medication. Feel free to reach out to the child life team members for any help with medications.

Regardless of the form of medication, it is best to set your child up for success from the beginning. First, set the environment. Remove all distractions and give a time limit (“You have two minutes to take your medicine”).

Next, offer choice and control. Remind your child that although taking the medicine is not a choice, there are other choices to be made. “Do you want mom to give you your medicine or do you want to do it yourself? Do you want to take your medicine in the kitchen or the living room? What would you like to drink with your medicine?”

Language is also very important to consider when your child is taking medicine. Explain to your child that the purpose of taking medicine is to help their body feel better or stay healthy and use encouraging phrases. If your child does well with rewards, offer a sticker chart in order to earn a small reward after completing the medication.

Liquid Medication

  • Mix or quickly follow medication with strong flavored food or beverage if possible (ensure child will take all of it, chocolate syrup or flavored coffee creamer works well to mask taste)
  • Model for child and take “medicine” together with a syringe and liquid (water etc.)
  • Have child plug nose
  • Utilize counting (1, 2,3…take medicine)


  • Works best with school-aged children, but can be attempted as early as three years old
  • Sit up straight with shoulders back and feet on the floor (if tall enough)
  • Head up and chin level to the ground
  • Place the pill on the center of the tongue
  • Take a drink and continue to swallow until pill is gone
  • Tip head back or forward while swallowing
  • Crush up pill (if agreeable by physician or pharmacist) and take with pudding, apple sauce, etc.
  • Practice with candies such as sprinkles or small candies to promote mastery
If you notice your child struggling and becoming frustrated, it is okay to take a short break and try again. Be patient, remain positive, and celebrate the success!
Child Life Specialists at Nationwide Children's Hospital
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Lauryn Rozum, MS, CCLS
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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.