How to tell what your baby is thinking |

How to tell what your baby is thinking

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

Tara Burke says if parents want to know what their babies desire, just ask them.

“Babies know what to say, they just don’t have the verbiage or speech to communicate it,” said Burke.

Burke is a certified Baby Signs instructor and is giving a free presentation about teaching American Sign Language to children as young as 5 months old. The presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada.

Burke became involved with baby sign language after she read an article about it while she was pregnant with her first child, now 4 years old.

“It makes parenting easier because it reduces the frustrations of the baby when they are young and makes the terrible twos much less difficult,” Burke said.

Even if parents have no previous sign language training, Burke said, it takes only minutes to pick up the basic first signs that a baby will use, words like “more,” “hungry” and “drink.”

Burke said babies begin to understand the signs as early as 5 months, but lack the dexterity to make the signs until they reach 10 months.

“A lot of people think that if you teach a baby to sign they won’t learn to talk, but actually the opposite is true. They pick up language faster and when they do start talking it’s at a higher level,” Burke said.

Part of the reasoning is that because they can communicate earlier, babies are more interested in talking because they can pick the topics.

“So, if a cat walks into the room and my 1-year-old son signs ‘cat,’ we have a conversation about that cat and he’s involved because he picked the topic,” Burke said.

While Burke said the sign language isn’t used as much after children learn how to talk, they still retain that knowledge. For example, Burke’s 4-year-old is now using sign language to communicate with her 1-year-old.

The free presentation is designed to give parents a taste of how baby sign language works and then decide if they want to take additional classes. Burke offers a two-hour class that gives parents the signs they need to communicate and a six-week class with different themes.

“We have one week where it’s meal time and one that’s bed time, so we do the signs related to those themes as well as reading about the different themes,” Burke said. “It’s more like a mommy and me class.”

If you go

What: Free introduction to Baby Signs program

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, 813 N. Carson St.

information: Go online at

reserve a spot: Call 882-7925 or e-mail

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.