“Although your baby starts working on grasping an object from as early as 3 months, she will take a year or two to learn how to release an object with skill. Thus she may involuntarily drop her toy or the object she was holding without meaning to,” says OT and GAP founder, Lourdes Bruwer. “The ability to voluntarily release an object starts at around 8-10 months but may take a few more months to refine.”
Releasing a toy voluntarily is a very important fine motor milestone and your baby needs a lot of practice, so once your baby learns how to release voluntarily, you will find you get caught in the frustrating game of picking up toys and giving them back to your baby.
This can become tedious! So you need to be prepared-ish with a variety of games to encourage release:
- Attach your baby’s toy to linking chains, a dummy clip or to a rope and teach her how to pull her toys closer.
- Try not to tire too quickly of the ‘drop and pick up game’ as this is vital for your baby’s understanding of cause and effect - another important mini-milestone.
- Give your baby a tin or box with blocks or small balls. Show her how to drop the objects into the tin and then take them out to try again.
- When your baby has a block in each hand, offer her a third block – she will have to release one to take the new block, teaching her voluntary release
- Play the ‘give me the toy game’ – use a simple phrase to indicate that you want the toy whilst putting your hand out. Praise your little one for giving it to you and then give it back.
As tedious as this stage of teaching your baby to release can be, try to see the value in the repetitive games your little one loves to play.