Swallowing pills for the first time may be difficult for some kids. Don’t worry—most kids will learn this skill with practice.

It is important to keep in mind that every child is different. Be patient because it may take your child several attempts to successfully swallow pills. Try and practice this skill with pill-sized food (not medicine) over a couple of weeks for five to 10 minutes a day until they feel comfortable swallowing pills.

Medicines come in many forms:

  • capsule
  • chewable
  • dissolvable
  • liquid
  • pill
  • tablet

Read the directions on your child’s medicine to make sure doses are correct. Never crush, split or put a pill in liquid without checking with your pharmacist. There are some medicines that only work if swallowed whole and could be dangerous if crushed or dissolved.  

When is it a good time to teach a child how to swallow a pill?

  • Learning to swallow pills around age 8 is often appropriate.
  • Avoid teaching your child to swallow pills when she is sick or cranky.

Tips for swallowing pills or capsules:

  • Start with small pill-sized foods your child likes, including:
    • cake sprinkles
    • oblong mints
    • mini chocolate chips
  • Show your child how to swallow a pill.
    • Place the pill toward the back of your tongue.
    • Keep your tongue flat.
    • Add water to your mouth.
    • Tilt your head back slightly.
    • Swallow the water and the pill at the same time. 

Remind your child that medicine is not candy. Explain to him that he is practicing with candy to get used to the feeling of swallowing pills. Teach him that taking too much medicine is dangerous.

Teaching tips:

  • Practice for small amounts of time each day.
  • Offer positive feedback.
  • Give your child a straw to swallow water, which may help her swallow pills better.

Have questions about your child’s medicine?

View video tips about swallowing pills from our St. Louis Children’s Hospital MomDocs.

If you would like information about how to help your child swallow pills sent to you, contact the Center for Families Resource Library at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The Center for Families Resource Library is 100-percent funded by generous donations to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation.


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