Hold the hamster yourself. Before you let the kids hold a hamster, you need to display the proper way to hold her by doing so yourself. The visual cue will make it easier for your child to see what the proper holding method is. Point out what you are doing with each step. For instance, you might say "I'm letting her crawl in my hand, not grabbing her" or "When I hold her, I don't squeeze too hard because she might get hurt."
Have your child wear gardening gloves at first. This will protect his hands in case the hamster decides to nip a little. While hamster bites are not always painful, the action of the bite can startle a child into letting go of the hamster. Therefore the gloves are safer for both the hamster and the child. The reason gardening gloves are a good choice is because of the canvas fabric. Hamsters may get their little claws stuck in wool and other more porous materials. Their nails can be clipped but it's not ideal since they are so small. If you must have them clipped, leave the job to a licensed veterinary expert. Even with clipped nails, they can still get stuck because they shouldn't be trimmed down too far. For this reason, we choose to just let our hamsters keep their nails as they are. We won't clip them unless they become a danger to the animals.
Hamsters like to crawl down, not up. When the kids are handling the hamsters, remember this rule as far as getting them out of the cage. For the purposes of picking them up, hamsters actually feel safer crawling down onto someone's hand, rather than hopping up into it. What I do is have the kids open the cage door and place their hand slightly underneath the opening. All of our hamsters are satisfied with this method. They'll come right out the door and down onto the hand. When placing the hand inside the cage, they are less sure if they want to get out. This is likely because hamsters are very territorial and anything invading their space may be seen as a threat. It's also because when you place your hand in the cage this way, they have to climb up into your hand. We've had several hamsters and they've all preferred climbing down instead.
Allow the hamster to go to your child. In addition to the way in which the child allows the hamster to crawl, she needs to know that hamsters do not like being grabbed. It can be tempting for a child to grab a hamster who doesn't willingly come into his hand. However, this is not the proper way to do things. Instead, the child needs to place a gloved hand a short distance from the hamster and be quiet, still, and patient. Wait, can a child actually do those three things? Of course they can. Part of being a pet parent is learning responsibility and this will help a great deal. The child should leave the gloved hand right outside the door for about 30 second at a time. If the hamster does not come, the child can try again in a little while. Eventually, the hamster will become curious and go for it. After practice, the hamster will soon learn that this is an invitation to come out of the cage and have some fun.
Show your child what to do when the hamster moves. Hamsters don't always sit still. It's important that kids know about this from the beginning. Our hamsters like to run up and down our arms. They also like to perch on our shoulders. Kids need oi be prepared for this and need to know how to keep the hamster safe during this activity. We always keep at least one hand near the hamster. That way, if they slip a little (which can and does happen), they are not going to fall. Teach your child to have his hand follow the hamster's movements to ensure safety for the small animal.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network