I was chatting on Twitter today with another mom who was letting her little boy have M&M’s as a treat for potty training. I told her that I was very wary of giving little kids candy like M&M’s until they’re a bit older. It’s not because they might choke on them (though there’s a possibility they could, for sure… they are hard, round candies that need to be chewed and don’t REALLY melt in the mouth)… but it’s because they look too much like pills.
Put a red M&M and an extra-strength Tylenol side by side. Sure, YOU can tell them apart. You’re an adult. But your toddler? I’m betting your toddler would reach for the Tylenol just as frequently as he or she reaches for the M&M. Lots of pills have “sweet” coatings on them too, because people are lame-o and can’t just suck it up and swallow a pill the old fashioned way.
I’m sure you know as well as I do that kids are crafty, too. I clearly remember climbing up on to the bathroom counter when I was about 6 years old, finding a pill bottle in the medicine cabine, and figuring out how to open a “child safe” container — I guess I was just curious — but thankfully my mother taught me about medicine very early on, and that it’s only to be taken when given by a parent. I’ve seen so many pictures on the internet of kids even smaller — three, four, five years old — climbing up on kitchen or bathroom counters. Can you imagine a child opening a pill bottle and thinking it looks like candy because they are used to eating food like M&Ms? The idea of that is very, very scary – if a child were to eat a bottle of Tylenol, the results would be devastating.
Giving your toddler small, round candies is very dangerous. I definitely will not be giving them to Zachary until he’s at least 5 years old and able to understand the difference between candy and medicine.
Edited to add ~ here are a few links which describe how dangerous the “is it candy or medicine?” issue is when dealing with toddlers: Candy or Medicine (Parents Magazine) / Medicine Cabinet Candy / Candy or Medicine Poster / 7 Drugs that can Kill Kids in a Single Pill
Just in case you don’t have the time to read all of the articles listed above, one of them (I believe the last one) discusses that many toddlers/babies ingest pills found in hotel rooms while families are on vacation and are brought to the hospital without even knowing what they’ve swallowed. Please be careful when you travel with your kids this summer and if you stay in a hotel with your young child, do a full sweep of the room/floor before allowing your baby to crawl around — and try to have at least one adult keep an eye on him/her at all times!