“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” sang Mary Poppins famously. And, sometimes, it does. Other times, though, you’ll need a few more tricks up your sleeve to get kids to take their medicine. Here are some of ours.
1Hide the taste
We’re not necessarily advocating Walt Disney’s most famous nanny’s suggestion of feeding kids straight sugar, but the principle is sound. Mixing medication with a little yoghurt, jam or juice can effectively disguise the taste. Stir liquids straight in, and crush tablets into powder before mixing.
Check with your doctor or medical professional that it’s ok to do this with each particular medication. And remember your child will need to eat or drink all of whatever it’s mixed with to ensure they get the full dose.
2Make it a happy time
Turning ‘medicine time’ into a game helps. Talk about it as an enjoyable part of the day. Hide any anxieties you might have, as children quickly pick up on your emotions. If you’re trying to give young children liquid medication, some parents swear by a game of peek-a-boo. Put the dose into a syringe first. Cover their eyes a couple of times as part of the game, then empty the syringe into their mouth the next time. They’ll swallow the medicine before they even realise what’s happened.
3Bypass their taste buds
If you can get the medicine past the most sensitive taste buds on the front and centre of the tongue, it’ll make the process more pleasant. Use a syringe or a dropper and aim for behind the rear gum, towards the back of the lower cheek.
It’s easier to do this with older children. If you’re trying it with younger ones, always aim for the cheek rather than the back of the throat to avoid potential choking. If you need to administer medicine in more than one go, let them swallow each dose before giving another.
4Let them take control
If your child thinks they’re in charge, they’re likely to be far more cooperative. Let them make some choices. Do they want to take their medicine before or after bath-time? Would they prefer it on a spoon or from a dropper? Allowing them to make decisions means your child feels they can control the process, making them more willing to participate.
5Warm it up
Administering eye and ear drops can be a tricky process. Your little one is likely to flinch and wriggle, especially if the drops are uncomfortably cold. Try warming the bottle between your hands for a couple of minutes first.
With eye drops, aim for the inner corner of the eye– that way, some will go in even if your child’s eye is closed at first.
6Let them chill out
We all know that ice can cause a sensation of numbness, right? Well, you can do that to taste buds too! Let your child suck on an ice chip (or an ice pop) before taking their medicine. Make sure it’s not large enough to be a choking hazard. Bitter-tasting medicines like steroids can be easier to take when the mouth is cold.
Kids love role play. Gather their favourite toys and a toy medical kit and set up a doctor’s surgery at home. Let your child treat their patients and give them medicine before it’s their turn to take some. You could even give out stickers to those who are brave – your child won’t want to miss out if their beloved bedtime teddy has one!
8Tell the truth
Once your child gets a little older, it’s better to be honest with them. Don’t tell them their medicine will taste lovely if it won’t. At this stage, you can explain how you know it isn’t nice, but it will help them get better. Just make sure you stay cheerful and positive as you do so. Kids are more capable of understanding reason than we think.