The Topanifarm Cubes, manufactured by the French company Djeco, are cute blocks for infants and toddlers that I use on a regular basis in my speech therapy sessions. They are a variation of the classic stacking and nesting blocks, and come with six soft rubber animals: a yellow dog, an orange cat (looks a bit like a tiger), a blue bunny, a pink pig, a green cow, and a red chicken. The cardboard blocks, which are meant to be the home of each animal, are colourful and beautifully decorated with pictures of shapes, numbers as well as illustrations of a sun, a tree, flowers, and clouds. The doors of the houses are cut out in the shape of a door and every animal can be placed inside.
I have used this game to address different therapy goals and have had excellent results. How do you use Djeco's block to help a child learn to talk? First of all, we will need to determine the stage of language development the child is at before we introduce any language goals. Is your little one using any words or phrases? Or is using words a future goal you are currently working on?
How to use Topanifarm Cubes with a child who is learning to imitate sounds (uses vocalizations or sound, but does not use words yet):
The focus is going to be on "making the child louder" and promoting different vocalizations.
- Build a tower and say “uh oh” (or “oh, no”), after knocking down the tower.
- Model different environmental sounds when playing together.
- Put the animals to sleep and pretend they are snoring (make a loud snoring sound).
- Feed the animals together and say “Mmmm” to show how delicious the food is (put your lips together to show the child how to make the sound “M”).
- Oh, the animals must be thirsty! Time to offer a drink to the animals. Make a gulping sound as they take each sip.
- Animal sounds: say the animal sounds as you are showing your child what to do with each toy. For example, say “Oink, oink” as the pig is jumping to his house. Pause, and wait for the kid’s reaction.
Tips for teaching animal sounds and vocalizations
- Choose the animal your child likes the most or seems to be interested in at the moment.
- Don’t overload the child. Choose one or two animal sounds to start with, and gradually add more sounds.
- Select an animal sound you know your child is able to produce. Although this is not a rule, a child who has said “muh muh” before is more likely to be successful producing the vocalization “moo moo” or “meow” rather than “cluck cluck”.
How to use Topanifarm Cubes with a child who is already able to copy and produce vocalizations, and occasionally uses some single words:
The focus is on expanding the child's vocabulary and teaching words from different categories. In my experience, the parents I work with are usually comfortable teaching nouns and focus their attention mostly on teaching objects. While nouns are important first words, we also have to remember that they are not the only words we use. In our everyday speech, we also use social words, spatial terms, pronouns, and adjectives and we have to make sure we are modelling variety of words when interacting with the child.
Animals: dog, bunny, cow, cat, pig, chicken
Body parts: ears, mouth, nose, legs, tummy
Common words: house, door
Food items: cookie, water, milk
Social words: hi, bye bye, all gone, no more, please, thank you, uh oh, oh no, okay
Action words: eat, sleep, hide, kiss, hug, open, hop, drink, jump, all gone, help, fall, see, “wash”
Spatial terms: in, on, off, out, under, up, down
Descriptive words: yummy, yucky, big, little, loud, quiet, funny, silly, messy, dirty, clean
Pronouns: me, my, mine, I, you
How to use Topanifarm Cubes with a child who is learning to play appropriately with toys:
Build a tower with the child (take turns stacking the blocks) and knock it down together; once the routine is familiar, you can add another element (e.g., put the little animals in their houses as you are building the tower again).
Show what you can do with each animal: make the rabbit hop, the cow jump, the chicken. Feel free to use play food to feed the animals or give them a drink.
Help the animals find their houses. The colours of the animals and the houses do not match, so kids have to do a little bit of work in finding where each animal belongs. Once this task is completed, you can put all animals to sleep and wake them up in the morning. Sometimes I bring in a babydoll blanket to cover the animals as they fall asleep. As you probably can imagine, waking up the animals is the best part of the game.
At the end of the game, I ask the kids to clean up all the houses. Figuring out which house is the largest could be a tricky thing for an 18-month-old, but please don't rush to help. Let your little one figure it out on his or her own!
In summary, Djeco’s Topinafarm Cubes is an adorable toy that supports the development of:
- hand-eye coordination and motor skills
- imaginative play
- cognition and problem-solving skills
- language skills
This toy makes for a great birthday gift for infants one year and older, and is an excellent tool for each therapist, parent, or educator working on language skills as it is engaging, open-ended, and so much fun!