How to: Encourage toddlers to take medicine

Along with winter’s chilly weather, many of us find ourselves prone to illness, and often our children are the hardest hit, despite our best efforts at strengthening their immune systems.

While we avoid medication for common coughs and snotty noses, as it can often make things worse, at times it may be necessary to take antibiotics if the infection is severe and bacterial. However, giving young children medicine isn’t always easy. If you have a resistant toddler, here’s an idea that worked for our kids, and a few that didn’t.

Attempt number 1 — shocking fail

Our first attempt at giving our toddler his medicine was to fill a syringe with the dose and asking our him if he wanted to drink it. He smelled it but kept his mouth shut. We suddenly realised that this wasn’t going to be easy, so without much thought we pried his mouth open and shot the medicine in. Not only was our toddler in shock, he spat out most of the medicine all over his jumper. Not a good plan!

Attempt number 2 — toddler power

Our next idea was to give our son his medicine in a cup so he could drink it himself. We encouraged him to drink it, but he would only put the cup to his lips with a cute smile and refuse to open his mouth.

Attempt number 3 — sweet resistance

Dad thought mixing the medicine with a sweet drink might do the trick, but our toddler took the cup and tipped it all over the kitchen floor. Time to regroup.


Attempt number 4 — encouraging success!

We were now pretty lost and frustrated, and hence turned to Google for help, but didn’t find much. After reading about how one guy only managed to give his toddler medicine by tipping him upside down and forcing the medicine into his mouth, I decided to dig out my journal to find out how we’d managed when our eldest son needed medicine. I read about how our son’s big brother had also initially refused his medicine when we tried the same techniques we’d been using with our toddler. Back then, we finally found success by simply putting the medicine in a cup and placing it on the table. We then got very excited about our son drinking it. Once he drank it, we clapped and laughed and gave him big hugs. He took the rest of his doses happily. We decided to try this approach with our toddler.

I set the scene by asking out toddler whether he wanted to drink his medicine again to help make him better. He gave me a half nod with a cheeky smile, so I decide I may as well try. I measured the medicine into a small cup and put it on the table in front of him. Then dad and I both got super-excited about him taking a drink.

“Here, have a drink!”

“Yay, take a drink to make you better!”

A bit of excited cheering and clapping. Our toddler picked up the cup.

“That’s great. Come on, have a drink! Yay!”

Lots of clapping, laughter and happy, excited cheering. Overwhelmed, our toddler took a drink.

“Yay! You had a drink!!! Was it yummy?”

Our toddler nodded his head ‘yes’. Lots of clapping and cheering. We gave him a hug and noticed there was still some medicine left.

“Look. There is still a bit left. Did you want to drink the rest?”

Our toddler drank it all up and asked for more! Now we had to disappoint him.

“That’s all for now, but you can have some more later.”

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