Mia has been playing with Hama beads since she was about two and a half. Although you can buy a range of Hama beads called Maxi beads which are aimed at older toddlers, we've only ever had the Midi beads which are the more common size of Hama bead. They are pretty fiddly at first, but even toddler Mia has been able to manipulate them onto the pegboards without too much trouble.
She started out by just placing a few beads onto each board, then she progressed to filling up an entire small pegboard with a random selection of coloured beads. Just this week, as she approaches three, she has learned about creating patterns by alternating lines of different colours. Harry was following simple designs as soon as he started with them at the age of four, so I'm interested to see when she picks that up too.
Playing with the Hama beads has been a fantastic activity for Mia, and she really loves them. It's been great for her fine motor skills. She does get cross when they don't go where she wants them to or if she tips the board and dislodges them, but her concentration has improved. We've also used them as an opportunity to talk about the different colours, to count them, and to start introducing ideas like patterning of the colours, and encouraging her to make decisions about which colours to choose.
I think that as long as a toddler is old enough to understand not to put the beads in their mouth (or indeed any other unsuitable place) then they are old enough to be introduced to Hama beads. I'd recommend starting with the smaller sized pegboards, so that they are able to complete something fairly quickly, and don't feel that every creation needs to be ironed otherwise you'll quickly run out of beads! When you do iron the beads, make sure that you iron well on both sides so that they stay sturdy and don't fall apart.
A circular board is a good one to start with, then you can turn the finished works of art into coasters. It's also a nice shape that you can use to make a simple striping pattern, or use half of the board to make a rainbow. I also have lots of ideas for displaying finished Hama bead creations. I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to let Mia near my lovely boxes of sorted beads yet though!
If you have a little one that you'd like to introduce to Hama beads you might like to see my Pinterest board where I collect together all sorts of Hama bead inspiration for little ones.
Follow Jennifer Jain's board Hama bead ideas for young children on Pinterest.