How To Swallow Pills by Dr. Bonnie Kaplan

This training video was developed by Professor Bonnie Kaplan, in conjunction with the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Many parents know that taking pills can be a real nightmare for some children. Even many adults have trouble swallowing medication. Difficulty in swallowing medication can have huge implications for a child's health and for a family stress level, especially in families already challenged by life-threatening illnesses. The added problem of getting the life-saving treatment into their child represents an enormous emotional burden. Over the last five years my students and I have developed and tested a new method for teaching pill swallowing. The new method involves learning to swallow with one's head in different positions which makes it easier for medication to go down. It's surprising to people to swallow with their head in any position other than center, so it takes practice. The technique typically requires only 30 minutes to learn followed by two weeks of that daily practice, usually just five minutes a night, using candy in each of the five positions we have found I think it's a good idea it helps them pay attention to how it felt when they have to write it down. Here are the rating sheets that we use, maybe you'll want to use something like them. The method of off-center swallowing can be taught and learned easily. Four different studies with adults and children have proven that it works. Even three quarters of the people with no problems swallowing pills at all told us that they found a position they liked better than the center position. Some children who have had bad experiences with swallowing pills may be understandably afraid to try this method. It must be emphasized that our studies have found that 14 days of repetition and practice are essential to success. Very few children get it on the first day. Once the effort is put in most people are pleasantly surprised by how easy and effective this method is. One little five year old girl was so proud of her results she taught her entire kindergarten class. Others have told me they plan to study it as part of their science-fair projects and still others have taught their grandparents. We hope this method will make it easier for people of all ages to swallow medication with minimal discomfort and difficulty. 

Download the resources from this pill swallowing video here:

Head Position Preference - 14 days of practice sheets

Successful treatment of pill-swallowing difficulties with head posture practice

Practice Pointer - Giving oral medicines and supplements to children article

Learn more about some of Dr. Bonnie Kaplan's research at