Can Good Things be Bad for You?

Lesson Objective:

Teach children not to touch or taste pills or medicines by themselves.

Children will understand that some pills and medicines that are good for you can be harmful if they are taken the wrong way. They will understand that medicine should only be taken with the help of an adult they trust. This activity will help children understand that if misused, even good things can be poisonous.

Children should learn to:

  1. Stay away from pills or medicines by themselves.
  2. Never touch, taste, or smell something that could be poisonous, especially if you don’t know what it is.
  3. If you don’t know what it is – stay away and ask a grown-up.
  4. Tell a grown-up if you see something that could be dangerous.

Teacher Preparation:

Before the lesson, print pictures and collect items that can be used as teaching aids. Note: Everything you bring in as a display should be empty or “pretend” bottles. Never bring medicines into the classroom.  

Suggested Materials:

  • Pictures of medicines: children’s vitamins, cough medicine, pain relievers, and prescription drugs OR empty/“pretend” bottles.
  • To illustrate pills, use small and large balls: Bring 4 – 6 small balls (golf ball size, at least 2 different colors), 1 large ball (tennis ball size)

Key Terms:

  • Poison
  • Medicine
  • Pill
  • Safe/Not Safe

Teacher Narrative:

Lots of people take medicine to make themselves feel better when they are sick. But it’s important to only take the right medicine. That is medicine that a doctor gives you, or that a trusted grown-up says you may have. If medicines are taken the wrong way, they can be poisonous! Poisons can make you sick and hurt you if they get into your body. We should never play with, touch, or taste poisons. If you see something, but you don’t know what it is, stay away! Tell a grown-up.

Lesson Instructions:

  1. Hold up pictures and/or empty medicine and vitamin bottles — Ask what each one is. “Does anyone take vitamins or medicines? Are they good for you? Why?”
  2. Ask, “Can medicine ever be bad for you?” Use the narrative above to explain that medicine can be harmful if it’s taken the wrong way.

Give children examples and clues, pretending that the balls are medicine: 

  1. “Let’s say the doctor tells your mom to give you one pill a day (show small ball). What if you take three, or four, or more pills (show small balls)?”
    • Say, “The doctor gives you just the right amount of medicine to take. If you take that amount it will make you feel better. If you take too much, it can make you sick.
  2. Ask “What if you take an adult’s medicine by mistake (large ball) instead of your medicine (small ball)?”
    • Say, “The doctor gives you just the right amount for your size. An adult’s medicine might be too strong for you.
  3. Ask, “What if you take your (sibling, friend, etc.) medicine (small colored ball) instead of your medicine (small ball different color)?”
    • Say, “The doctor gives you the just-right kind of medicine to make you feel better. Another person’s medicine that’s not made for you could make you sick. Remember to always have an adult help you take any kind of medicine.”