US 20070051864 A1
A cost effective, durable, safe, and washable placemat that remains in place during use, contain spills that arise during meal time, and collects food and other debris before it falls on the floor is disclosed. In one disclosed embodiment, the reusable placemat has a substantially planar eating surface that is encircled by a spill retention rim with a food retention gutter detachably secured thereto. A resilient strip of material preferably encircles the lower side of the placemat thereby defining a non-slip foot. The planar eating surface may be substantially transparent, thereby allowing one or more activity cards to be displayed therethrough.
1. A reusable placemat having:
a substantially planar eating surface;
a spill retention rim encircling said substantially planar eating surface; and,
a food retention gutter detachably secured to the substantially planar eating surface.
2. The reusable placemat of
3. The reusable placemat of
4. The reusable placemat of
5. The reusable placemat of
6. The reusable placemat of
7. The reusable placemat of
8. The reusable placemat of
9. The reusable placemat of
10. The reusable placemat of
11. The reusable placemat of
12. The reusable placemat of
13. The reusable placemat of
14. The reusable placemat of
15. The reusable placemat of
The present invention relates to a reusable placemat for use primarily by infants, toddlers, and the like.
Children, particularly infants and toddlers, are messy eaters. They tend to eat with their hands, and they frequently do not effectively use bowls or plates. As a result, they tend to spill food on themselves and around their surrounding areas during meal times.
In addition to this mess, childrens' eating styles tend to allow their food and beverages to frequently contact potentially unclean surfaces. For example, children often let food fall to the floor, and they are sometimes prone to retrieving these dropped items and eating them before a parent can intervene. Moreover, the general cleanliness of a tabletop in a restaurant is often undeterminable.
Efforts to address these issues have focused on providing protective barriers around the child and/or table. For example, infants frequently wear washable bibs. Similarly, the meal table and even the floor around the child are often covered with a protective covering such as a tablecloth or the like.
While these protective cover solutions reduce the clean-up time and protect furniture and the like, they have several drawbacks. For example, these protective cover devices do little to help contain spills or prevent food from falling to the floor during mealtime. Moreover, reusable bibs and tablecloths must be washed between use. In practice, frequently washing large tablecloths grows burdensome.
Placemats have been used in an attempt to protect children from unclean surfaces and reduce clean-up time. Such placemats are usually substantially planar mats formed of either disposable paper or reusable plastic. While these types of devices reduce the workload associated with cleaning them between meals, they do little to help contain spills or prevent food from falling to the floor during meal time. Moreover, the small and flexible nature of these mats permits them to frequently become a toy for the child. Some children will even pull up such mats while their food and beverages are resting thereon, thereby causing an even bigger mess than would have been created by not using the placemat at all.
Efforts to improve the basic design of a placemat have had limited success. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,746,735 to Snedeker discloses adding a scoop to one side of a conventional substantially planar, foldable, placemat to collect food and the like that would otherwise spill on the floor during use. While the scoop helps collect some debris, these types of designs do little to contain spills arising on the mat itself, entertain the child during meal-time, or prevent the child from pulling up the mat during use.
Accordingly, despite the improvements of the known placemat designs, there remains a need for a cost effective, durable, safe, and washable placemat that remains in place during use, contain spills that arise during meal time, and collects food and other debris before it falls on the floor. In addition to other benefits that will become apparent in the following disclosure, the present invention fulfills these needs.
In one disclosed embodiment, the reusable placemat has a substantially planar eating surface that is encircled by a spill retention rim with a food retention gutter detachably secured thereto. A slip-resistant foot encircles the lower side of the placemat thereby holding it in place on a table during use.
If desired, the planar eating surface may be substantially transparent, thereby allowing one or more activity cards to be display therethrough to entertain the child during meal time. Packaging material for storing and marketing the placemat can also define at least one activity card. A plurality of activity cards, each having different surface indicia to define a different activity can also be sold separately as a set.
A reusable placemat 20 having a spill retention rim 22, a removable food collecting gutter 24, a slip resistant foot 26, and an activity viewing system 28 is shown in
Preferably, the placemat 20 is substantially rectangular defining an upper edge 40, lower edge 42, left edge 44, right edge 46, top side 50, and bottom side 52, and the removable food collecting gutter 24 is preferably operably secured along the lower edge 42 of the placemat 20 as best shown in
Preferably, the slip resistant foot 26 is formed of a flexible, rubber or rubber-like, slip-resistant material that is operably secured to the bottom side 52 of the placemat 20 so that the placemat 20 rests on the foot 26 when placed on a table 80 (
The removable food collecting gutter 24 is preferably formed of the same or similar flexible material used to form the slip resistant foot 26. More preferably, the gutter 24 defines a food retention trough 90 that is positioned substantially adjacent to and extends along the entire length of the lower edge 42 of the placemat 20 as best shown in
One possible structure for detachably securing the gutter 24 to the placemat 20 is best shown in
Preferably and as shown in
If desired and as best shown in
Preferably, all materials forming the placemat 20, spill retention rim 22, slip resistant foot 26, and food collecting gutter 24 are shatter proof and dishwasher safe.
In view of the wide variety of embodiments to which the principles of the invention can be applied, it should be apparent that the detailed embodiments are illustrative only and should not be taken as limiting the scope of the invention. For example, the spill retention rim 22 could be integral with the slip resistant foot 26 by mounting a band of resilient material along the edge of a substantially planar material that defines the eating surface. The upper portion of the resilient material could define the rim 22, while the lower portion of the resilient material defines the foot 26. In such case, the preferred attachment structure between the gutter 24 and placemat 20 could be modified by providing a slot in the resilient material for connecting the arm of the gutter 24. Accordingly, the claimed invention includes all such modifications as may come within the scope of the following claims and equivalents thereto.