FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to baby bouncers and more particularly is directed to a bouncer having improved bouncing qualities.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Bouncers are a very popular product, and a great variety of bouncers are on the market. In their simplest form the bouncers now available generally include a U-shaped wire base that rests on the floor or other surface with the closed end of the U at the rear, and have upwardly and rearwardly extending legs that form a continuation of the base at the front ends of the arms of the U and provide the bouncing action for the bouncer. A cradle-like baby support is mounted at the top of the upwardly and rearwardly extending legs so that movement of the baby disposed in the support causes the unit to bounce gently so as to entertain the baby. Bouncers now available have been embellished by providing toy bars that extend above the baby support for further entertaining the baby, and many bouncers also include vibrators attached to the bouncer frame that cause the bouncer to vibrate gently to soothe the baby. In addition, many of the bouncers include an electronic music source and lights to further soothe and lull the baby to sleep. Typical of the bouncers available are those shown in the following U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,553,786; 5,187,826; 5,207,478; 5,503,458; 5,411,315. In all of these bouncers, the infant faces in one direction and the legs extend upwardly in the opposite direction.
In accordance with the present invention, the orientation of the base and legs is reversed, that is, the closed end of the U is on the front of the base and the legs extend upwardly and forwardly from the rear portion of the base and the cradle is oriented so that the infant in it faces in the direction of the closed end of the U. This orientation increases the length of the moment arm of the force supplied to the legs by the weight of the infant and therefore accentuates the bouncing action that results from movement of the infant in it. This concept may be advantageously employed in bouncers wherein the legs and base are made of a continuous wire or tubing or of wire or tubular sections that are joined together either directly or by connectors. The concept may also be advantageously employed in bouncers that have frames made of plastic or other materials.
The bouncer may include such embellishments as a toy bar, canopy, vibrator, music maker and/or lights as the configuration of the frame does not interfere with the attachment of those devices.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention will be better understood and appreciated from the following detailed description of several embodiments thereof, selected for purposes of illustration and shown in the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bouncer constructed in accordance with this invention;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the frame of the bouncer shown in FIG. 1 with the toy bar and fabric removed;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of another embodiment of frame for a bouncer embodying this invention; and
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the baby support of the bouncer of FIGS. 1 and 2, taken along section line 4-4 in FIG. 1.
The bouncer shown in FIG. 1 includes a frame 10 and a cradle-like baby support 12 carried by the frame. The frame 10 has a base 14 and upper portion 16, and the base 14 supports the upper portion 16 on a flat surface, such as a floor, table top, etc. The upper portion 16 in turn carries the fabric 18 that comprises the cradle 12.
The base 14 of the frame includes a generally U-shaped portion 20 having side members 22 and a front member 24, and lies flat on the supporting surface. Extending upwardly from the rear end 26 of each side member 22 is an upwardly and forwardly extending leg 28 that in turn carries a connector 30 on its upper end 32.
The upper frame portion 16 includes a U-shaped wire 40 having sides 42 and an arcuate upper end 44. The lower ends 46 of the sides 42 may be connected to the upper ends 32 of the legs 28 of the base 14 of the frame by a variety of different ways. For example, the lower ends of the sides 42 may be connected to the connectors 30 or they may be connected directly to the upper ends 32 of the legs 28 by a telescoping interfit, or by any other means. A second U-shaped wire 50 cooperates with the U-shaped wire 40 to provide support for the cradle 12. In the embodiment shown, the ends 52 of the wire 50 are looped about the lower ends of the arms 42, and a stop may be provided as suggested at 54 for engaging the ends 52 so as to prevent the wire from moving below a selected angle with respect to the arms 42. Typically, the stops may limit the downward travel of wire 50 to a horizontal position when the bouncer stands on a horizontal surface.
The fabric cradle 12 for supporting the baby in the bouncer may typically be made of a quilted fabric provided with pockets 60 and 62 on the back thereof that slip over the U-shaped wires 40 and 50 so that the wires together support the fabric. This construction is suggested in FIG. 4. The edges of the fabric are preferably padded as shown at 63 so as to form a bumper around the periphery of the cradle and prevent the baby in the cradle from bumping its head or any other part of the body against the U-shaped wires 40 and 50.
While the illustrated embodiment shows pockets in the quilted fabric to attach the fabric to the U-shaped members 40 and 50, strap fasteners having snaps or Velcro-type hook and loop fasteners may accomplish the same purpose, or sleeves may be formed in the fabric to receive wires 40 and 50. It is desirable, however, that whatever means be used to attach the fabric to the U-shaped wires 40 and 50, it should allow the fabric to be detached from the frame for washing or cleaning.
The connectors 30 also preferably carry a generally downwardly extending brace 70 that when placed in its active position engages the cross member 72 of the base 14 (see FIG. 1), to prevent or greatly limit the bouncing action which is otherwise afforded the bouncer. The cross member 72 is shown attached between the side members 22 of the base but it may be incorporated into the base in a number of different ways. For example, it may be attached to the front member 24 and extended rearwardly therefrom, or it may fill the entire area defined by the U-shaped portion 20 of the base 14. It will be appreciated that in the embodiment shown a substantial portion of the bouncing action is provided by the flexibility in the legs 28, and that action will be substantially impeded when the brace 70 is moved to the position shown in FIG. 1 wherein the brace engages the cross member 72. When it is moved to the raised position shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, full freedom of bouncing motion is afforded the unit.
The cross member 72 may have a groove or stop in its upper surface as suggested at 74 to receive the bottom portion 71 of the brace to releasably hold the brace in the operative position to block the bouncing action. In the embodiment shown, the brace is U-shaped with the arms 75 of the brace pivotally mounted to the connectors 30. The brace may take other shapes and may simply engage the surface on which the bouncer rests to block the bouncing action.
The bouncer may include a vibrator 73, many varieties of which are commonly available and used in children's furniture. The vibrator 73 is suggested in broken lines in FIG. 2, mounted in the front member 24 of the base 14. As suggested in FIG. 2, one or more control switches 78 is disposed on the upper surface of the front member 24 of the base and may enable the user to select one or more vibration speeds and conveniently facilitate turning the vibrator on and off.
The bouncer may also includes a canopy 80 forming part of the cradle, that may be elevated as a shade for the baby in the bouncer, when it is disposed in the position of FIG. 1, and may be collapsed so as to lie essentially in the plane of the U-shaped back wire 40 when not in use. The canopy typically may include a fabric cover and one or more arcuate ribs 84 that support the fabric and are made of plastic, metal or other suitable material. The ribs 84 may be disposed in pockets 85 also suggested by broken lines in FIG. 1, and the rear margin 86 may be stitched or otherwise secured either permanently or detachably to the top edge 88 of the cradle fabric. The side margins 89 of the canopy may also be stitched or otherwise secured to the side edges 62 of the cradle fabric and the ribs 84 may simply float in the pockets 85. The construction enables the canopy to be easily raised and lowered as needed.
In the embodiment of FIG. 1, in accordance with another aspect of the invention, a toy bar 90 is shown and incorporated into the bouncer by means of attachment to the connectors 30. The ends 92 of the toy bar may be directly connected to the connectors 30 and preferably the connection enables the toy bar to be placed in different angular positions suitable for the baby. For a larger (older) baby, the toy bar may be elevated above the position shown in FIG. 1, while in the position of FIG. 1 it is positioned so that a very young baby may contact the toys on the bar with his/her feet and make noise or otherwise activate the toys depending of course, on the types of toys mounted on the bar. In the embodiment shown the toy bar 90 is carried on hubs 94 forming part of the connectors 30 so that the toy bar may easily be pivoted about the axes of the hubs. The toy bar hub 94 may contain a radial rib (not shown) on its inner face that coopertaes with the radial slots 95 shown in FIG. 2 on the connector 30 to enable the toy bar 90 to be oriented in different angular positions. This is only one example of many different arrangements that may be used for the stated purpose. A toy 91 is suggested in FIGS. 1 and 4 mounted on the bar 90 and is merely representative of countless different toys that may be carried on it. It should be appreciated that other means may be used to support the toy bar. For example, its ends may be pivotally connected to the lower ends 46 of the U-shaped back wire 40 or to the rear ends of the sides of the U-shaped wire 42.
In FIG. 3 a second embodiment of frame is shown. In accordance with this embodiment, the frame 100 includes a base 102 having a front portion 104 and rearwardly extending side members 106 to the rear ends 108 of which upwardly and forwardly extending legs 110 are connected. The front portion 104 of the base 102 may be integrally connected to the side members 106 or may be separately made and connected together such as by a telescopic connection. Similarly, the upwardly and forwardly extending legs 110 may be integrally formed with the base 102 or be separately fabricated and connected such as by a telescoping connection or other expedient to the ends 108 of the side members 106.
The back portion of the cradle (not shown) in this embodiment is supported by a U-shaped frame member 112 connected to the upper and forward ends 111 of the legs 110 and extends upwardly and rearwardly therefrom. Finally, a second U-shaped frame member 114 is shown connected to the very upper ends 113 of the legs 110. The ends of member 114 alternatively may be connected to the lower ends of sides 116 of the member 112. The U-shaped members 112 and 114 typically made of steel wire carry the fabric cradle in the same manner as the U-shaped members (wires) 40 and 50 described above in connection with the embodiment of FIG. 1. As in the preceding embodiment, means (not shown) provided such as a flange or shelf to limit downward movement of U-shaped member 114 and hold it in the substantially horizontal position illustrated when the bouncer is in use. The upper U-shaped section 112 that supports the back rest may be integral with or separately fabricated and connected to the upper ends 111 of the legs 110.
An important advantage of the present invention resides in its ability to provide greater bouncing motion for the baby. In conventional bouncers widely sold, the cradle orients the child so that it faces in a direction opposite that provided in the present invention. In the prior art bouncers shown, for example in U.S. Pat. No. 4,553,786, the center of gravity of the baby together with the cradle is disposed nearer to the forward bend of the base at the bottom of the inclined legs than with the bouncer of the present invention. Therefore, the longer moment arm achieved by the present invention will impart more bouncing action about the lower ends of the legs in response to movement of the baby.
Having described this invention in detail, those skilled in the art will appreciate that numerous modifications may be made of the embodiments illustrated and described without departing from the invention. For example, that the invention may be embodied in bouncers having a collapsible frame as well as in bouncers having a frame that may be readily disassembled to facilitate travel or storage. The collapsing action is suggested by the broken line showing of the U-shaped member 50 in FIG. 2. It should also be appreciated that while in the description the frame components are sometimes called wires or tubes, the invention is not limited to one or the other of the shape and material suggested, and the frame may be made of plastic or other materials. Therefore, the breadth of the invention is not limited to the specific aspects illustrated and described but rather its scope is to be determined by the appended claims and their equivalents.