These Tricks Will Help Your Reluctant Kids Take Medicine

by Tanay Howard
Originally Published: 
A little girl rejecting to take medicine
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There is absolutely nothing that I dread more as a mom than cold and flu season… though I would be lying if I didn’t say I sometimes enjoy the quiet that a cold brings. It’s not even the sickness that I dread so much — it’s administering the medicine to cure the sickness.

My middle child is a medicine-taking professional. At four years old, he never gives me a problem when it comes to taking medicine in liquid form. Whether it’s allergy medication or something over-the-counter to treat a cold, he takes the medicine cup, downs it like a shot, and walks away like a boss.

My 7-year-old, though? FULL ON DRAMATICS. Getting him to take medicine in any form is always a process. He is jumping up and down. Begging for seven drinks of water, and still crying before he takes the five milliliters of medicine required for his weight. I’ve picked up some tricks on how to make the medicine taking process just a little bit easier. For his sanity, sure, but also for mine. If you find yourself in the same boat, hopefully some of these tips will help.

Make it fun.

This is obviously going to depend on your kid, but you definitely have to go into the process positively. I used to tell my son “medicine jokes.” This was essentially, me finding the corniest joke I could on the internet that was sure to make him laugh. At the end of the joke he was in a good mood and I would tell him “okay hurry and drink while you’re laughing”! The laughter served as a good enough distraction for a while that he wasn’t thinking about the dreaded task of taking the medicine.

Hide it.

This is a trick that even some adults use. It’ll be much easier to get your kid to take medicine they don’t even know exists. If this is not a medicine they take every day, then this is the perfect time to possibly give them a treat they don’t usually get. Try mixing their medication with something else if your doctor says it’s okay.

Mixing ideas:

Fruit Juice (it can also be frozen into a popsicle if your child will eat it all)




Chocolate (or Strawberry) Syrup

Breast milk or formula (for babies)

Applesauce and yogurt pouches are especially brilliant for this. Open it up, then use a plastic syringe or dropper to put the medicine into the top.

One caveat with this method: you have to make sure your child is getting the entire recommended dose, which means eating or drinking all of whatever you mix it into – so if you have a kid that routinely takes a couple of bites or sips and leaves the rest, this may not be the best means of getting the meds down.

Allow them to role-play.

Time for your checkup! Younger children love to play pretend. Let your child give one of their dolls or stuffed animals medicine first before taking their own. A little bit of magic also goes a long way with some kids, so the “medicine fairy” has made several stops at our house.

Add some flavor.

As mentioned above, asking your doctor to mix the medicine with juice at home is a great way to change up the flavor. You can also ask your pharmacists or doctor about a flavored syrup called FLAVORX that can be added to some medications. Letting your child pick their favorite flavor may be just the encouragement they need to then take their medicine.

Let them take charge.

Because nothing makes a toddler happier than feeling like they have control. You can let them decide when to take their medicine, and if possible let them take it by themselves. And when they’re done you obviously have to conclude with tons of “big kid” praise!

Channel your inner Mary Poppins!

I don’t know any kid in the world who’d turn down a spoonful of sugar.

Numb the tongue.

It’s not as drastic as it sounds. Giving a popsicle immediately before medicine adds flavor in the mouth and also cools the tongue down, making it harder to taste. You can also cool a spoon first and let your child hold that in their mouth to get the same effect, but I’m willing to bet they’d enjoy the popsicle idea more.

… Or completely avoid the tongue.

Medicine syringes aren’t just useful for babies. Using a medicine syringe for toddlers and children that are a little bit older can help bypass the tongue completely avoiding the yucky taste of medicine. Do this by holding the syringe towards the back of the cheek. You can also have them hold their nose.

Get the medicine in pill or dissolvable tablet form.

For older children, taking medicine in syrup form may just be too much for them. Find out from your doctor if their medicine comes in pill or dissolvable tablet form. Of course you’ll then have to teach them how to swallow a pill, but that may prove to be an easier feat than the syrup.

Don’t be above bribery.

Sometimes a little bribing goes a long way. A sticker chart is a good idea in this scenario. Once they take their medicine they earn a sticker. A certain amount of stickers, and they get to pick out a small prize.

Important (and Helpful) Things to Remember When Getting Your Kids to Take Medicine

  • Always consult with your doctor before trying a new method of administering medicine. There are slow release pills that shouldn’t be crushed, some medicines need to be taken on an empty stomach, etc. Of course we’re trying to make it easier on ourselves, but the single most important thing is to make sure you are giving the medicine correctly.
  • Attitude is everything. Patience is key.
  • Never make your child feel like you “won” by getting them to take their medicine. If you go the route of hiding the medicine you don’t ever want to brag or make your child feel tricked into taking the medication. This will only cause your child not to trust you and could eventually lead to bigger issues.
  • Talk it out. Children are not above explanations, and they’re little people with feelings. Make sure their concerns are heard so you know which fears about medicine taking you need to reassure. Explain what the medication does and that it will make them feel better.
  • It’s okay to switch it up. The same method may not work every time. It’s okay to find what works and then readjust if necessary.

Maybe you’ll luck out like I did with my middle child and you’ll have a kid who takes medicine with no problem. But if not, these tricks will help you get through the medicine administering process with just a little less stress.

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