Rhymes with Sign is aimed at helping families and educators use their hands to sing their favourite nursery rhymes with Deaf or hearing children at home, preschool, or anywhere!
The Rhymes with Sign app also incorporates NZSL signed vocabulary for each rhyme. With such a feature, easily accessible, big and little hands are able to learn signs easily!
NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) is the language of the New Zealand Deaf community and one of New Zealand’s official languages. NZSL is a real language, with its own grammatical rules and syntax (Collins-Ahlgren, 1989; McKee et al, 2006).
Why should we learn to sing nursery rhymes in NZSL?
Why not? Learning nursery rhymes in NZSL is a fun and simple introduction to New Zealand Sign Language for anyone.  From a developmental perspective, research has shown babies can learn and use sign language from an early age.  Using sign language together with your little ones stimulates language development and enhances cognitive skills (Baker, 2011; Marschark & Hauser, 2012).
Is there a sign for each word in a song?
Not necessarily.  NZSL isn’t a translation of English, it’s a language of its own.  The Rhymes with Sign team has taken special care to interpret traditional nursery rhymes in a way which bridges the gap between NZSL and English, so the meaning of the signs follows that of the lyrics.  So there might be times when a certain sign may represent two or more words in English, or a word in English may be conveyed by two or more signs.
Is Rhymes with Sign just for New Zealanders?
Not at all!  NZSL belongs to the family of languages known as BANZSL – British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages – so these three languages may be considered as dialects of the same language (Johnston, 2002; McKee & Kennedy, 2000).  So people outside New Zealand, particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom, can use Rhymes with Sign as an effective resource.  Just bear in mind some signs might not be quite like the ones used outside New Zealand!
Songs include Twinkle Twinkle / Baa Baa Black Sheep / Humpty Dumpty / Incy Wincy Spider / Happy Birthday / Rain Rain Go Away / Alphabet Song / Three Blind Mice / Jack and Jill / 1 – 10 / Row Your Boat
Ten useful tips to help you get the most out of Rhymes with Sign!
  • Practice
    Like anything, practice makes perfect! Lots of practice will make signing easier.
  • Eye contact
    Lie baby down or have your child sit facing you to make sure they can see you signing.  If they sign along too, make sure you watch closely – your attention is their reward!
  • Facial expressions
    Be expressive and show a range of emotions and actions, e.g. happiness, falling down, disappointment, etc.
  • Memorise
    Memorise the signs used in each nursery rhyme to make it easier for you to sign. Make learning the signs a game with your child – see if they can recall the signs before you play the video together.
  • Engage
    Lead by example – participate by signing and singing along with the videos and your child. Show you can do it too!
  • Sign
    Don’t just sign when you’re using Rhymes with Sign. Adopt a few signs when you’re singing with your child in everyday life – nappy time, play time, class time, bed time – any time!
  • Mime
    Sometimes it’s easier to focus on signing when you switch the sound off. You can still mouth the lyrics without using your voice.
  • Praise
    Don’t put pressure on your child to sign. Give them lots of praise if they join in – it doesn’t matter if their signing isn’t accurate.
  • Captions
    For older children, use the captioning feature and run your finger along the words. Note how each word is highlighted while the song is playing. Using Rhymes with Sign like this is a great way to introduce captions to children who’ll be using them in daily life later.
  • Fun
    Enjoy using Rhymes with Sign with your child. Make sure it’s always fun!
An awesome resource for parents with deaf children or parents who want to teach their kids some NZSL. Rhymes with Sign is a clever, easy, fun way to teach nursery rhymes in NZSL!

– Hearing parent, Deaf child
Darryl Alexander

Darryl (Deaf) has a BA in Second Language Education, a Certificate in Deaf Studies: Teaching NZSL and a Graduate Diploma in Primary Teaching. Darryl is a Resource Teacher of the Deaf for van Asch Education Centre. An avid sign-singer, Darryl features in the official NZSL version of the New Zealand National Anthem. He also led a team of sign-singers in signing the National Anthem at the Rugby World Cup 2011. Darryl was recognised with the National NZSL in Action Teaching Award in 2013. He lives in Wellington with his wife Sara and their two adorable little boys.

Video Production:

Deafradio is a Deaf-led creative hub, committed to developing a range of high-quality, technology-based accessibility projects. Deafradio specialises in the development of NZSL resources and initiatives, including Seeflow – a professional online NZSL translation service. Deafradio and its Creative Director Sonia Pivac (Deaf) are proud to support Rhymes with Sign. A Fulbright scholar, Sonia is the creative force behind Deafradio. Her work on the SignDNA NZSL archiving project, to be released in late 2014, earned her the 2013 National NZSL in Action Champion Award.

App Developer:
Greg Hewgill

Greg (hearing) is a software developer whose interest in sign language stems from his wife’s study to become a sign language interpreter.

Greg’s other mobile applications include an NZSL dictionary, with sign diagrams and videos for more than 4,000 words and phrases. Greg lives in Auckland with his wife Amy.

Shaun Fahey

Shaun (Deaf) is a freelance artist who has been drawing since he was five. He’s well-known for his graphics work for the New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary and the NZSL Online Dictionary. He has produced thousands of beautiful illustrations for businesses and other Deaf organisations.

NZSL signers:

Darryl Alexander, Sonia Pivac


Josh Cleary, Saran Goldie-Anderson


Karishma Mohan, Kelly Hodgins, Lynette Pivac, Rohani Alexander and Sara Pivac Alexander

Special thanks:

Amy Hewgill, Daniel Hanks, Daniel Harborne and Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand

Rhymes with Sign would not have been made possible without the support of Penny Went Family NZSL Learning grant and Deafradio.
Rhymes with Sign is available for Android and Apple users and features options for audio and karaoke-style captions. A handy vocabulary list is also being developed, so you can practice individual signs.

We'd love to hear from you!

* = required fields
Spread the sign singing love!