We are sharing our step-by-step guide, available as a free download, for caregivers, parents and clinicians to help kids learn how to swallow pills.
As your child nears the time to go home from the hospital, the healthcare team is working diligently to ensure a smooth and safe transition. We all know kids thrive best in the comfort of their own homes. So, when it comes to discussing medications to be taken at home, it’s crucial to build a positive foundation for your child’s relationship with taking medicine.
When your child reaches school age, it’s a good time to start thinking about teaching them to swallow pills. It’s a skill that usually takes time to master, so don’t expect instant success. Here are some compassionate and educational tips to help you and your child get started.
It’s important to manage everyone’s expectations—yours, your child’s, and the healthcare team’s. Learning to swallow pills is like any other new skill; it takes time, practice, and a whole lot of patience.
Take the Pressure Off
The key is to create a low-pressure environment. Don’t wait until the morning of discharge to start practicing. Ideally, you should introduce the concept and start practicing 3-4 days before your child is due to go home.
Before diving into the practice, make sure your child understands the “why” behind it. You can even make it interactive by playing with pill putty or using play to introduce the concept of swallowing medicine in pill form.
Make it Fun
Turn the learning process into a game. Stock a keychain or pill case with different-sized candies like Nerds, M&M’s, Skittles, Tic-Tacs, and SweetTarts. This makes the practice sessions more enjoyable for your child.
Demonstrate Different Techniques
Bring two cups of water—one for you and one for your child—and maybe even get mom and dad involved. Show different swallowing techniques using a straw, or try swallowing the candy before or after taking a sip of water. The goal is to find what works best for your child.
Reinforce the Fun
Remember, the focus should be on learning and having fun, not just “getting the job done.” If you notice your child getting frustrated, it’s okay to take a break and maybe even turn the session into a candy buffet.
Consistency is key. Your child may not get it on the first try, and that’s perfectly okay. Keep practicing and make it a point to revisit the exercise until your child feels comfortable with the process.
Wrapping it Up
Teaching kids to swallow pills is an important skill that requires patience, education, and a dash of fun. Whether you’re a parent or a clinician, these tips can help make the process more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone involved.
So, how do you incorporate pill swallowing into your practice or routine? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.