BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to infant mobiles and, more particularly, to an infant mobile that may be remotely activated by a kick-bar.
2. Description of Related Art
The related art may be divided into four categories:
a. infant mobiles with conventional wind-up or switch activation;
b. conventional crib gyms or activity centers;
c. crib toys of various types, including crib gyms and mobiles, that may be remotely controlled by a parent; and
d. crib gyms or activity centers with kick-bars.
The present invention is a combination of categories c. and d., namely a mobile that is remotely controlled by a kick-bar, thus enabling the mobile to be controlled not only by the parent, but also by the infant.
The theory behind the kick-bar is that even an infant that is not able to intentionally manipulate objects, or even to move body parts in a controlled manner, may benefit from linking an effect, such as playing of music or activation of a light, to a random action on the part of the infant. The idea is that if the effect occurs often enough in response to the action, the infant will begin to associate the effect with the action, and thus begin the process of actively engaging his or her surroundings. Since all infants kick from the moment of birth, the kick-bar is an ideal way to elicit input from even the youngest infant.
Until now, however, kick-bars have not been used in connection with mobiles. To the contrary, mobiles are generally suspended out of reach of the infant and, unlike a crib gym or activity center, are intended to be passively viewed rather than touched or manipulated. While remote controls have been used in connection with infant mobiles, the remote controls are designed to be activated by a parent from a distance rather than by the infant, so as to enable activation of the mobile without the infant being aware of the parent's presence.
By way of background, examples of typical, non-remotely actuated mobiles designed to be suspended out of reach of the infant and activated only by the parent are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,919,795 and 5,951,360; examples of standard crib activity centers designed to be hung within reach of the infant, to include sound and/or motion effects, and to be manipulated by an older infant capable of sitting up and actively manipulated objects, are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,973,286 and 4,551,114; and an example of a floor or crib gym which includes hanging objects designed to be grasped or batted by an infant lying on its back, and which may also include motion, sound, and/or lighting effects, is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,478,268.
An early example of a mechanical crib toy activated by an infant kick board is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,461,682 discloses a mechanical crib toy activated by an infant kick board, while more contemporary kick board activated crib activity centers with lights and sound are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,203,395 and D450,782.
On the other hand, U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,207,696 and 4,640,034 disclose sound-activated mobiles, while U.S. Pat. No. 4,984,380 discloses an infant mobile that is activated in response to body motion of an infant detected by a passive infrared sensor. These systems offer a certain degree of interactivity, but lack the tactile input of a kick-bar, and do not enable an infant to associate specific motions with motion of the mobile.
The present invention combines the concept of the kicking unit, which has heretofore only been used with gym-type crib toys, with the infant mobile, creating a new category of crib toy that bridges the gap between more passive mobiles of the type taught in U.S. Pat. No. 4,984,380 and more interactive crib toys of the type taught be U.S. Pat. No. 6,203,395.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is accordingly a first objective of the invention to provide an infant mobile that not only stimulates the visual and aural senses of the infant, but that also permits the infant to activate the mobile, thereby enhancing the developmental effects of the mobile
It is a second objective of the invention to provide a mobile that is responsive to two sources of activation, namely the parent and the infant.
It is a third objective of the invention to provide a remotely controlled infant mobile that includes a second remote actuator designed to elicit specific movements by the infant.
It is a fourth objective of the invention to provide a remote activation device that enables a pre-mobile infant to activate a device suspended out of reach of the infant.
It is a fifth objective of the invention to provide a crib toy having passive and interactive activation modes, and that has a relatively simple construction.
It is a sixth objective of the invention to provide a remote control device that is capable of causing an effect to occur in response to an action by an infant who is not yet able to manipulate objects or intentionally move body parts, and thereby accelerate development of the ability to intentionally move objects and manipulate objects.
It is a seventh objective of the invention to provide an infant mobile that may be activated by the infant and yet that allows the parent to control the degree of stimulation provided the child, and in particular to time the activation and shut-off in such a way as to lull the infant to sleep, without the infant being awakened as the parent manipulates the activation or shut-off mechanism.
These objectives are achieved, in accordance with the principles of a preferred embodiment of the invention, by adding a transmitter to a kicking unit of the type disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,203,395, so that the kicking unit can activate a mobile or other device by remote control.
Preferably, the mobile consists of three units: a kicking unit including a kick-bar, a mobile unit, and a remote control unit designed to permit parental activation of the mobile. The kicking unit is attached to the inside of the crib, includes electronic light and sound effects, and serves as a first remote control unit for the mobile. It can be made from soft vinyl, foam, plush or hard plastic, and is intended for the infant to kick. The mobile unit is attached to the top of the crib's rail and has four to five dangling characters attached to it, although those skilled in the art will appreciate that the number and design of the characters may be varied in any way that is likely to be attractive to an infant. The remote control unit is intended to provide a second means of remotely activating the mobile, and in particular to permit a parent to switch the electronics in the kicking unit on and off, and is preferably stored in a bracket, attached to the wall by the door.
The kicking unit may be designed to provide two modes of operation. When set to a lights and sound setting, the lights and sounds are activated in response to kicking of kick-bar, but the mobile is not. When the toy is set to a mobile setting, the baby kicks the kicking unit, the lights and sounds are activated and, in addition, the kicking unit send a wireless signal to the mobile to spin it above the infant's head. Either operation mode can be turned on or off using the second remote control.
In addition, the kicking unit may be arranged to activate a projector that display shapes on the ceiling, and/or may include a cassette CD with appropriate music to accompany projected images or movement of the mobile.