When it comes to the natural supplements my family takes, I like to take a minimal approach – using real food as the foundation for good health and filling in where the body might need a little extra help. This rule especially applies to kids.
On the daily (well, ok, a few times per week), I mix up a concoction of cod liver oil and a few other supplements for my kids.
Over the past eight years, I've gotten some good practice (and big fails) when it comes to getting kids to take supplements. Once I triggered my son's gag reflex with a medicine dropper – not good. And over and over again, I've coached my little patients' parents as to how to get the good stuff down.
So, based on my personal and professional experiences, here are…
Five tested tricks for getting kids to take natural supplements
#1 – Check your attitude
If you're not convinced that something is AWESOME then your kids will pick up on it like you were wearing a flashing neon sign on your face.
This is most definitely the case when you're holding a spoonful of mysterious bitter liquid and asking them to drink it down. Kids have the unique ability to sense any slight hesitation on your part. If they have any inkling of an idea that they can talk you out of this, they will.
Project a very firm resolve so that there’s no question about whether or not slurping down supplements is an option. Be positive, and if you're prone to apologizing be sure to refrain.
#2 – Enroll your kids
Children, like any humans of any age, don't like to feel powerless.
By explaining to your kids specifically why their supplements are important, you are empowering them to feel better, healthier, stronger, ect. Keep it short, simple, and to the point. You'll find it helps if you know what each supplement does too!
#3 – Find the perfect disguise
Mary Poppins was onto something with the spoonful of sugar. From a Chinese medicine perspective, children actually need sweet foods. Now, this actually refers to starchy things like potatoes, carrots, and fruit. But as they are naturally drawn to sweet, using this flavor to pair with bitter certainly “helps the medicine go down.”
In my house, elderberry syrup pays a double duty role of sweet disguise and helpful medicine. Read more about this flu-fighting supplement and how to make elderberry syrup in this post. If you prefer to buy it premade, I love this brand.
Aside from elderberry, there are plenty of other great options to consider. Like pure maple syrup, raw local honey, or frozen organic grape juice concentrate.
Lots of parents find that mixing natural supplements into a smoothie works well too. If you want to use the smoothie disguise, make sure to keep the size manageable, otherwise they'll be leaving their essential (expensive) nutrients in their cup.
#4 – Smart delivery
This is one of my favorite little secrets to simplifying the job of getting kids to take supplements. Every parent needs a big medicine dropper – like this one.
The large size will hold a decent amount of liquid and the dropper mechanism puts you in the driver's seat, saving you from the torturesome task of coaxing your wee one to slurp something from a wobbling spoon or motivate to drink out of a medicine cup.
Taste buds are concentrated on the front and center of the tongue, so when you slip the syringe into your child’s mouth, make sure you aim for the back and side of the mouth, between the back gum and cheek. You definitely want to avoid the back of the throat (as I've found from experience) that’s likely to trigger the gag reflex, and you really don’t want more coming out than going in.
#5 – Rewards
I can hear collective gasps of shock at this suggestion, but let’s be realistic here for a minute. A little coaxing can go a long way.
For me it's simple – when I weigh out the moral issues of offering a few chocolate chips in exchange for a couple of gulps of supplements, I'm happy to lower my standards for the price of my kids' health.
If you'd prefer non-food based reward, star charts can also work well for many kids so that after a week of compliance they earn a small toy or special experience with mom or dad. Think of it like frequent flyer miles for kids – not a perfect trade, but in the end, everyone's happy.
So there you have it… my tried and true tips for getting kids to take supplements.
Curious about what I give my kids? Read this post on 3 everyday supplements that kids need.
Now, I need your help…
My current challenge is getting my less-than-enthusiastic 8 year old to swallow capsules of cod liver oil. We’ve tried practicing with M&M’s and dipping them in honey. Have you had luck in getting your child to swallow pills? What tricks worked for you?