Pill swallowing tips - CF Buzz



Most parents will know how difficult it is to get children to swallow pills. But it’s not always easy, especially for little throats. With a little practice though, it’s a skill that can be learnt.


Help your children think of the tablet or capsule as a friend who will help them feel better, not something frightening.

As a parent you can help your child learn to swallow tablets automatically. Keep it short and fun and follow this step-by-step guide.


Step 1

Buy some lolly ‘tablets’, start with the smaller ones and move up

  • Nerds/silver cake decorations
  • Mini M&Ms/Mini Skittles
  • Tic-Tacs
  • M&Ms/Skittles
  • Eclipse mints/Jelly Belly
  • Jelly beans


Your child should be able to swallow water without dribbling. Have your child swallow one of the candy ball “tablets.” It is better not referring to them as lollies during practice as lollies rarely trigger anxiety and the skill may not be transferred to medications.


  • Begin with the largest size lolly “tablet” your child can swallow
  • Tell the child to place the lolly “tablet” as far back on the tongue as possible, take a drink of water from a cup and swallow the “tablet”
  • You can have as many practices as needed
  • Most children will manage swallowing these lollies easily. Praise your child for trying and achieving.


Step 2

Your child should swallow the lolly “tablet” five times in a row.

Continue using the same size “tablet” until this is achieved. If they are only successful 4 times, continue with the same size lolly until you have 5 successes.

Sessions should last 10–15 minutes; do not prolong the practice if your child becomes upset. Keep in mind the amount of water they have drunk and the degree of anxiety the procedure is causing.


Step 3

Move to a bigger-sized lolly “tablet”, but if your child is unsuccessful, return to a smaller size and end the session on a positive note.


Step 4

In the next session always begin with the first size lolly “tablet” used at the first session. If your child had success on the first attempt, move immediately to the next size.

Try practice sessions, ensuring you always have five successes before re-trying the next size that your child was unable to swallow. Some children are able to swallow all the sizes in one session; others need 2-6 practice sessions.


Step 5

Progress from lolly “tablets” to actual medication. Once the child progresses through the program to Tic-Tac level, they rarely have difficulty swallowing medication.


Head Posture Method

Changing the position of the head is another way practicing pill swallowing.

The Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute has produced a series of videos called “Better than a spoonful of sugar” that runs through pill swallowing techniques.


Where you can find out more

Teach children how to swallow tablets and capsules from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

The Importance of Pill Swallowing Skills from the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System

I have to swallow that? Pill swallowing techniques for kids and teens from The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America

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