Be prepared for the "icky" face when you toddler takes her medication.

How to Get a Three-Year-Old to Take Antibiotics

by Jaimie Zinski

When your 3-year-old is under the weather, you want nothing more than to eliminate that pesky bacterial infection with antibiotics. Unfortunately, it's impossible to explain to a sick toddler that the icky-tasting medicine will make him feel better. Instead of fighting a losing battle and setting yourself up for future failure the next time your toddler is ill, there are several methods you can try that can make this experience less traumatic for everyone involved.

Mix crushed antibiotic pills with applesauce, ice cream, grape juice or anything else your toddler can tolerate. Call your toddler's pediatrician before crushing pills. If you get the go ahead, mix the antibiotic with a small amount of the soft food or beverage to ensure your child consumes the entire dose. Ask your pharmacist to add flavoring to liquid antibiotics to make the medication more palatable. Allow your toddler to choose his favorite flavor.

Administer the food or beverage without making the toddler aware it features the antibiotic. She might notice a strange flavor, but continue to encourage her to consume the beverage or treat. Many times, a prompting and letting your child know the treat or drink will make her feel better is enough to get her to finish it all. If administering liquid antibiotics, use a plastic syringe instead of a spoon. Remind the toddler she picked out the flavor and squirt the liquid into her cheek so she doesn't fully taste the antibiotic.

Offer your child a glass of juice if he reacts negatively to the antibiotic's taste or begins to cry. The juice not only cuts the taste, but is also a nice reward for your toddler taking his medicine.

Administer the medication at the same time and in the same spot every day. Choose an area other than the toddler's bedroom -- which should remain a fun zone -- and give her the medication at the same time each day. Keep a dosage chart and allow the proud toddler to check off each time she takes the medicine.

Reward your 3-year-old once he's finished the antibiotic and is feeling better. A new toy or a trip to the toddler's favorite park is a fun and simple reward for him being a big kid.

Items you will need

  • Plastic syringe
  • Fruit juice


  • Take a break if your toddler is extremely resistant to the medication. Walk away from the situation for five minutes and try again when the toddler has settled down. Many times, a different adult administering the antibiotic is enough to get the child to take her medicine.
  • Contact your toddler's pediatrician if she's completely uncooperative or is sickened by the medication. The doctor can prescribe an alternate antibiotic that your toddler can tolerate.

About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images