How To Get A Toddler To Take Medicine: 9 Tips To Try

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How to get a toddler to take medicine- often seems a tiresome energy-draining task that you might have to go through. Toddlers are notoriously fussy and picky when it comes to taking medicines due to concerns with palatability, such as the taste or smell of the medicine (1). The way you administer the medicine to your toddler may also be a factor for why they refuse to take it.

Read through the list of creative ways to give medicines to your child and learn the additional safety considerations that you should keep in mind.

Things To Try When Your Toddler Doesn’t Take The Medicine

A toddler may not like to take medicine, but a parent may try different strategies to get them to take the medicine. You may consider any of the following ways to encourage your toddler to have the medicine.

1. Try a different delivery method

The method of delivery may make all the difference in having your toddler take medicine (2) . If they refuse to have the medicine from the spoon, you may try giving it to them with the help of a dropper or an oral syringe, a syringe without the needle.

2. Reward them

Some toddlers could feel motivated when provided with rewards. Avoid rewards that include unhealthy food items and sugary desserts. Instead, you may reward them with stickers or a book that you may read together. In addition, you can prepare a monthly chart of stickers that the toddler can win if they have their medicine without fuss. When the toddler attains a certain number of stickers a month, you may plan a family outing or have an event at home, such as a barbeque in the garden.

3. Disguise the flavour

In several cases, the main reason behind the toddler’s reluctance is the medicine’s taste (3). In such cases, you can try and camouflage the medicine using appealing or strong-tasting food or drinks. Dipping the tip of the syringe in applesauce or chocolate sauce might also help with the process. Consult the doctor beforehand to know which foods can and cannot be used for this purpose.

4. Distract them

Distraction could work wonders with some toddlers. You may give them the medicine when they are occupied with other tasks and are least likely to realize the taste of the medicine. For instance, you may give the toddler medicine when they are playing their favorite games or engrossed in watching their favorite cartoon.

5. Numb the taste buds

Ice cream or ice cubes numb the taste buds present on the tongue (4). It is advisable to give ice chips to toddlers instead of ice cubes as they might act as a choking hazard. You may give your toddler ice chips, wait for a few seconds, and give the medicine (5). However, consult the doctor first to know if it is okay to give your toddler ice chips or ice cream before giving the medicine.

6. Play doctor

Toddlers love to role play. Take turns role-playing as a doctor. First, let your toddler be the doctor. Then, act sick and let them give you the play medicine. When it is your turn to be a doctor, give them the medicine that they need to take. They will think it is all fun and games.

7. Use the cheek pocket

 If your toddler is fussy about having liquid medicine, you can try using a plastic syringe to administer the medicine into their inner cheek pockets. Ask them to swallow the medicine slowly to prevent it from coming in contact with their tongue.

8. Break it up

Break the liquid medicine dosage into parts of smaller portions or volumes and give it to your toddler one portion at a time. While doing this, ensure that the toddler gets the complete dosage as prescribed by the doctor.

9. Give them options

Older toddlers can be given options such as whether they want to have the medicine themselves or would like you to administer it. You may also give them the choice of having it in a cup or spoon. Having a choice helps older toddlers feel in control, making it easier for them to have medicines.

Safe Dosage Of Medicines

“Dosing errors (when a parent or other caregiver gives too much or too little medicine) are the most common type of errors that occur while administering medicines.”, says Dr. Shonna Yin, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health, NYU School of Medicine (6).

Toddlers are mostly prescribed liquid medicines. To prevent dosing errors, it is recommended to use milliliters (ml) while measuring the medicine as per the doctor’s prescribed dosage. Purchase an oral syringe or cup marked with milliliters if the medicine does not come with any measurement device(7). If you have trouble reading or interpreting the markings on the oral syringe or cup, speak to the pharmacist or doctor.

Safety Measures To Consider While Administering Medication

According to the FDA, you may ask the doctor or pharmacist the following questions to understand the drug before your purchase it and administer it safely once you have purchased it (8).

  • What is the drug, and what is it for?
  • Will the drug interfere with any other medications my child is taking?
  • How many times will my child need to take this medicine?
  • For how long will the course of the medication continue?
  • Are there any side effects that are expected or to be concerned about?
  • What will happen if my child misses a dose by chance?
  • How soon will the symptoms improve?

Trying to make your toddler have the medicine can sometimes turn into a power struggle leading to wasted medicine and tired parents. Instead, you can incorporate variations in giving them medicines and use different techniques, such as distraction, to encourage your toddler to have the medicine. Also, it is suggested that you should be well-informed about the contents of the medicine and whether or not it might cause any side effects in your child.

Key Pointers

  • If your toddler is fussy when taking medicine, you can try new delivery methods, distract and reward them, or play doctor.
  • Avoid medication overdosage by measuring the medicine carefully as per the doctor’s prescription.
  • Learn about the drug, the dosage frequency, what happens on missing a single dosage, and how soon you can notice results.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Elin Hoien Bergene et al Strategies parents use to give children oral medicine: a qualitative study of online discussion forums
  2. Nicole Freedman Nine stress-free tips for giving your child medicine
  3. Medicine- Refusal To Take
  4. Numbing taste buds
  5. Helping your toddler take medicine by mouth
  6. Health Literacy and Child Health: Medication Errors
    Obesity Prevention and Asthma Management
  7. Protect Your Children: Store and Use Medicines Safely
  8. Information for Adults on Using OTC medicines safely
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Dr. Dur Afshar Agha

Dr. Dur Afshar Agha is a consultant pediatrician with decades of experience in various medical facilities both in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. She has headed the Department of Preventive Pediatrics at the prestigious, Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health in Pakistan and is a life member of the Pakistan Paediatric Association. She has also completed her Post Graduate Program... more

Sanjana Bhattacharjee

Sanjana did her post graduation in Applied Microbiology from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. Her interest in science and health, combined with her passion to write made her convert from a scientist to a writer. She believes her role at MomJunction combines the best of both worlds as she writes health-based content based on scientific evidence. Sanjana is trained in classical... more