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A Family Healing Center, PC

McMinnville Clinic

330 SE Baker Street
McMinnville, Oregon 97128
PH. 503 883 0333

Teaching your Children How to Swallow Pills

Swallowing pills can be a daunting endeavor, especially if you are a 7 year old. I taught my children very early how to swallow pills, almost before they could comprehend that it might be a scary thing. Most people are going about it all wrong. They wait until their child is 10 years old and start with a fairly large capsule as if the child is supposed to know what to do with this large capsule and how to open the back of their throat to let it down. The best way to start is when children are young but have no fear, I have also used this method with older children as well.

I suggest starting to teach your children how to swallow when they are 4 and 5 years old. No matter what age, if there is fear surrounding the swallowing of pills, I usually start them with a bag of cherries. It is a very fun way to learn how to swallow! I have them eat a bowl of cherries and concentrate on chewing the delicious flesh of the cherry and then allowing the pit to simply slide down their throat with the remaining flesh of the cherry. The cherry pit is already slimy and very easy to swallow. Work on this for a few days in a row. Maybe even longer pending on the emotional state of your child and how they are doing at this step. Usually this skill is pretty easy to master. Don’t worry about your child swallowing cherry pits; they just poop them out! I usually make some joke about growing a cherry tree inside their stomach if in fact they don’t poop them out in a timely manner.

Then if your child has already been successful with the cherry pit, then move to a swallowable pill that is small such as a probiotic pearl or a Vitamin E capsule and practice on these with water for at least a couple weeks. Don’t use too big of a capsule or pill too soon or you will chance ruining their comfort level as they transition to bigger capsules or tablets. Once they have mastered swallowing probiotic pearls or Vitamin E capsules, they are generally ready for anything. Make sure you consider their age and how small their throat is. They are still small human beings at ages 4 and 5 and don’t need to be swallowing huge fish oil capsules or other large tablets so keep the size of their supplement small and try not to overwhelm them when they are new to it. If your child struggles at this step of starting to swallow “real” capsules or pills, you can try to have him or her swallow the pill with applesauce rather than water and they can pretend it is just like swallowing the cherry pit. Practice this quite a few times.

Both of my children learned pretty young; maybe even at age 3 if you don’t mind me saying, but I kept their capsules and tablets small for years. But at the ripe ol’ age of 3, swallowing is fun and a challenge and the fear and opposition just doesn’t seem to be there. If you are trying this with an older child, you might have to spend considerably more time discussing the act of swallowing with your child and its importance for medication ease as they get older.

My children are now 7 and 13 and can swallow anything. I would say the 7 year old still struggles on the big pills and the number of pills that she has to swallow so we keep the number small. My children also like to have one “taste good” chewable vitamin they can end with. It is somewhat of a reward for the pills they swallowed prior!

Good luck!

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