Skip to Main Content

Welcome to

Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

Learn More

Help Your Young Child Take Medicine

Here are some tips for how to give a young child medicine in a way that is easier for you and your child.  

Prepare your child to take medicine

Let your child know when it is almost time to take medicine. For example, you might say, “When this song is over, it will be time to take your medicine.”

Create a routine. Your child might feel more secure when they know what to expect. Consider giving your child medicine at the same place and time, every time. For example, your child may feel less anxious when they know they take medicine after their bath every night, or after they brush their teeth in the morning.

Help your child know what to expect. You can have your child practice giving medicine to a doll or stuffed animal. They can also play with medicine syringes using water or paint. This can help them feel more comfortable with the medicine routine. It can also help them feel more in control.

Tips to give your child medicine

Tell your child what will happen first and what you will do next. Use a fun activity as a reward for taking the medicine. For example, you might say, “First, you will take your medicine. Then, we will play with your toys.”

Give your child some choices about taking medicine. For example, “Do you want to take it yourself or have me give it to you?” “Do you want it with apple juice or water?” or “In a syringe or in a cup?” Try to give just 2 or 3 choices. Too many choices can confuse your child.

If your child does things to slow down or avoid the medicine routine, calmly ignore the behavior and keep the routine. You can take a break for a hug or a drink of water if your child gets upset. Then go back to giving medicine. Remind them of the fun activity that you will do afterwards.

Praise your child

Describe what your child did well when you praise them for taking medicine. For example, it works better to say, “You did a great job taking your medicine when I asked you to,” than to say,” Good boy.” Tell your child exactly what you think they did right.

Other tips to help your child take medicine

  • Let your child know that you understand their feelings. You can tell them you know that taking medicine is difficult or not fun.
  • Keep your attitude positive. Your child will feel anxious if they sense that you are stressed. Try to stay calm. Do not threaten your child, because that could make the situation more stressful.
  • You can ask your doctor about mixing the medicine with foods, drinks, or syrups. This can help improve the taste.
  • Talk to your child about how the medicine can help their body. A child life specialist can help you find words your child will understand. Knowing why they need the medicine can make your child more willing to take it.
  • Many children do better at taking medicines when they are working toward a goal. For example, you might say, “After you take all of your medicines today, we can watch a special movie tonight.”
  • Your child might also feel proud to see how well they are doing. For example, you could let your child choose a sticker or make a mark on a chart. They can do a fun activity or get a small prize for a certain number of marks or stickers.

For more information

If you have questions about giving your child medicines, or want to teach them to take pills, talk to a member of your care team.

Riley Takes Medicine Coloring Book

Key Points

  • It is common for young children to resist taking medicines.
  • You can make the process of taking medicines easier by creating a routine. This helps your child know what to expect.
  • Your care team may have tips for how to make medicines taste better and how to talk about the medicine’s benefits with your child.
  • Give your child praise for a good job. Be specific about what they did well. This can make the experience better for them and make them more willing to take medications the next time.

Reviewed: August 2022