The Expert-Approved Trick to Get Your Kid to Take Medicine (Plus, a Backup Plan Just in Case)

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

Spring may be here but unfortunately your kid’s school didn’t get the memo (cue the runny noses, sore throats, fever, pink eye, etc.). Yep, parents all across the country are still dealing with cold weather bugs and those nasty symptoms, which means we’re also dealing with the inevitable wrestling match and total meltdown that comes with trying to give your snotty toddler ear drops to clear up that infection.

If only there was an easier way to get your child to take the medicine that they need to feel better… ah ha! But there is. We tapped little kid experts Kristin Gallant and Deena Margolin, LMFT, the duo behind Big Little Feelings, for their advice.

“From your toddler’s POV, asking them to take their medicine can feel really weird—and scary,” the pros tell us. “And if they don’t understand what to expect or what’s coming next, that’s a perfect recipe for meltdowns.”

The key to helping your child feel safe is to prep them. “This is one of our go-to gameplans, because it’s so effective and can be used to prepare your kid for any new (and likely stressful) situation, like going to a new school, heading to a birthday party for the first time or getting a flu shot.”

Makes sense, right? Uncertainty is scary for kids (and adults too!), but when your child knows what’s coming then their brain feels safe. Safe means calm, and calm meaning fewer meltdowns.

So how can you prep your kid for taking antibiotics, ear drops or any other medication? Here are three easy strategies:

Read Books Together

“Reading about taking medicine helps them understand and get comfortable with the experience. It makes the unfamiliar a little more familiar—and that goes a long way!” (Sofia and the Shot and George’s Marvelous Medicine are two books we like.)

Practice with Play

“Pretend to be the one taking the medicine and walk them through exactly what will happen. The more details, the better. Get specific. Role-play using toys and props. Pro tip: Use their actual medicine cup, nose spray, eye drops, or syringe to make it less scary and more fun. And be sure to mention that sometimes medicine doesn’t taste very good. (Imagine not knowing that sometimes medicine tastes yucky and then getting an unpleasant surprise once you taste it!)”

Reverse It

“Let your toddler give you the medicine! Letting them practice on you or a teddy bear or doll will help them build confidence. It also gives them a sense of age-appropriate power and control, which helps them feel safe.”

And a Backup Plan Just in Case

After you’ve prepped your child, here’s another tip the experts swear by: just add sprinkles. “Yes, it’s literally exactly as it sounds! Adding sprinkles into the little medicine cup will transform something your toddler dreads into something more fun, playful, and silly. It works because less serious = less stress, which leads to your toddler feeling more calm and more capable of expressing and regulating their emotions.”

Now if you’ll excuse us, the confectionary aisle at the grocery store is calling our name.

18 Things a Pediatrician Always Has in Her Medicine Cabinet

img 0936

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...