App review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2019
Nico & Nor Shadow Play
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Nico & Nor Shadow Play

Shine a light on concepts around shadows with fun app

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Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Age-appropriate and easy to use; Shadow Journal companion app extends learning; excellent developer-created lessons.

Cons: No characters model how to use the app; lacks animated visual cues showing what to press; English is the only spoken and written language.

Bottom Line: A good supplement for any early learning light and shadow unit.

Teachers can use Nico & Nor Shadow Play to supplement their existing curriculum on light and shadows or use the excellent unit plan available on the developer website. It's designed for preschool learners, but teachers in kindergarten and first grade could find Nico & Nor Shadow Play useful as well. Lessons are all age-appropriate for early learners and are five to 15 minutes in length. Teachers should be aware that these lessons don't center around the app but on hands-on experiences for kids. These activities have kids making shadows, moving objects, and moving the light to see how these actions change shadows, all of which are reinforced in the Nico & Nor Shadow Play app. Teachers can use the app as a whole-class activity or a center, as pairs, or for individuals, depending on the number of iPad devices available.

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Nico & Nor Shadow Play is an iOS app that allows kids to manipulate digital objects and light sources to discover the impact such changes have on shadows. Students will drag digital objects across simulated light sources, change the distance of objects from the light source, see what happens with multiple light sources, and more. Essentially, teachers can think of Shadow Play as a light and shadow simulation for early learners to use. At a few points in the app, students will be asked to predict where a shadow will land or determine which object would cast the shadow they're looking at.

The companion app, Nico & Nor Shadows Journal, is a separate app that has students go on a scavenger hunt for different shadows, such as ones on the floor or wall. Students can also just take shadows of whatever they want. This is a great way to allow early learners to document their observations.

Nico & Nor Shadow Play is certainly a fun app for early learners that presents a valuable learning opportunity. The app doesn't include any distractions or artificial rewards to disrupt or diminish learning. The touchscreen controls and navigation are simple to use, but the characters don't model the use of the app. When kids do have to push a button, the app tells them to do it, but there's no animated visual key like a pulsating button or hand tapping the desired area. To be fair, the developer lesson plans do begin with modeling the use of the app for the whole class, but it would be nice if Nico & Nor Shadow Play included some built-in visual cues or guidance beyond audio directions. Also, the app uses only English, which limits the number of students it can reach.

Overall Rating


Early learners will find the app fun and easy to use as they manipulate digital objects and light sources.


With thoughtful lessons, hands-on activities, and a companion app, teachers will find a great learning experience for youngsters.


Fantastic unit plans from the developer allow teachers to fully use this supplemental app.

Common Sense reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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