Home administration of medication to preschoolers is fraught with challenge. Liquid medication or pills you crush and mix with liquids or puddings are messy. The unpleasant taste can be impossible to disguise, and children are understandably reluctant to comply. Using a common food spoon as a measurement is imprecise, and such imprecision can have adverse health consequences for your child.
Fortunately, if your child's medication is available in pill form, the daily battle can end. Even preschoolers can learn to swallow pills with very little training, and the training process itself can actually be fun!
The key to teaching children to swallow pills is to arrange a way for them to practice the skill in a safe, stress free-way, without actually ingesting the medication. Enter the humble toasted oat cereal: Cheerios. Yes, Cheerios.
Create the right environment
First, ensure that you begin the training at a time and place that is most conducive to learning. This means that the place should be quiet and familiar to the child. Avoid choosing a time when you or your child are anxious or ill. Make sure to slate out plenty of time so you are not subconsciously pressuring your child to acquire the skill quickly so you can move on to the next event in your schedule.
Frame the task in an appealing way
Present the training as a "game." What you call the game is up to you. The "Nochu" (no chew) game is a name that's easy for a child to grasp, and will keep the goal top of mind as you continue. It is important to make the training fun for the child and to reward the behavior – and progress toward the desired behavior – during the training.
Present the idea of the game to your child the day before you actually intend to start the training. Give him or her some time to think about playing a game with Mom or Dad and the potential reward for doing so.
Craft the initial training session
Finally, set up a low table (a coffee table would work) with two small plates of eight to 10 Cheerios on each and two glasses of milk or your child's most preferred beverage. Explain to your preschooler that to win the Nochu game, one must place a single Cheerio in one's mouth, near the back of the tongue, then swallow it down with a drink of milk, without chewing it first.
Demonstrate the procedure while your child watches. Emphasize the fact that you have held the Cheerio for just a moment on your tongue and then swallow it only when you've had the drink of milk. Show him or her how you do not chew it first, nor do you swallow it prior to having the liquid in your mouth.
When it is your child's turn, offer a reward even if they fail the first several times. The reward is for the attempt. At minimum, praise your child heavily every time he or she tries to swallow the Cheerio Nochu-style. Small rewards when your child first successfully swallows the cereal without chewing might include watching a favorite television show with parents, choosing the family meal for the evening, or a special snack or treat.
Transition to the real thing
Once your child has mastered the Nochu game in training mode, it is time to move on to swapping the cereal piece for an actual pill. The transition should go quite smoothly, as your child has already mastered the skill necessary to easily swallow an actual pill. You might meet with more resistance if you've tried other methods of pill-swallowing training in the past that ended poorly. Reassure your child that you are confident that he will succeed, and that you are proud of him for trying again.
You can make a game of this final transition phase by having your child close his eyes. Place the pill or similarly sized Cheerio bit in your child's hand. Have a "3-2-1" countdown. When the child has successfully swallowed it down, have the child guess whether it was the pill or a Cheerio. This may reduce your child's anxiety at making the move to the actual pill.
The Nochu game is a great way to teach children to safely swallow their medications. Very young children can master this skill and make life a lot easier for everyone involved in the daily medication routine. Did Nochu work well for your child? Share this post to help other parents enjoy the same success!