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Here are some tips for how to give a young child medicine in a way that is easier for you and your child.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reviewed: August 2022