Some days, we’re called to help with things that feel like it’s hopeless to even try…

like pill swallowing and drinking water.

“Could you help my six-year-old buddy learn to swallow pills?”


“Oh sure, I’ll go grab my magic wand, wave it over his throat, and magically he’ll feel comfortable enough to swallow his pill.”

*Just kidding, sometimes this, in fact, does work.

There’s something about empowering the child and allowing them the opportunity to make mistakes and second guess themselves.

I like to give them Nerds candy to start with, working up their courage to the pill, and sometimes…they end up swallowing the pill. And they feel so, so proud.

(and so do you!)

One of my favorite “impossible” tasks was getting a five-year-old girl to drink. She was pretty dehydrated and had stopped drinking since it hurt so much following her tonsillectomy surgery. The nurses and staff had tried everything –

  • giving her the choice as to what she wanted to drink (apple juice, water, sprite),
  • putting stickers all over her cup of her favorite Disney princess, Elsa
  • even giving her a fun, crazy straw that was her favorite color

**as the child life specialist, this made me real proud that they had come up with all of this on their own without even needing my assistance. Again, sometimes it’s the littlest things that give children the power to do what they need to do. 

This child, however, was stubborn. And there was no way she was going to drink.

“Hey Jess…could you help my sweet five-year-old drink some fluids? We’ve exhausted our options and she really needs to show us that she can drink before we let her go home. Got any tricks up your sleeve?” 

I went in and built rapport with the five-year-old. We talked about many different things that she liked – what kind of games she liked to play at home, favorite movie, favorite TV show, favorite princess, favorite color, and more. Through conversation and most of her answers, I could tell she was quite the girly-girl; she loved all things frilly, pink, and princess-related.

Finally, it hit me.

“Hey, would you perhaps like to have a tea party with me? We can invite all of your stuffed animals.”

Her eyes widened, “YES!” she quietly, but excitedly, exclaimed. I went to gather my trusty tea set that I was praying would possibly trick this little girl to drink.


and it DID!

I poured the water in the tea kettle prior to entering the room, so as not to scare her or clue her in on the fact that this was purely to get her to drink something, and sitting down on the bed with her, I poured us both a cup.

Suddenly, she started talking to me in a British accent! Quite perfectly, I might add! A 5-year-old and I were sipping our “tea”, speaking in British accents and it was one of the cutest moments of my life. I have Peppa Pig to thank for that accent, I’m almost positive.


Sometimes, as a child life specialist, you’ll get called to help with things that make you scratch your head and think, “How am I going to teach someone that?” But being a child life specialist is all about thinking on your feet, engaging your creative side, and coming up with quick solutions for the impossible! When someone tells you they’ve “exhausted all of their options” …


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