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Publication numberUS20080099060 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/977,485
Publication dateMay 1, 2008
Filing dateOct 25, 2007
Priority dateOct 27, 2006
Publication number11977485, 977485, US 2008/0099060 A1, US 2008/099060 A1, US 20080099060 A1, US 20080099060A1, US 2008099060 A1, US 2008099060A1, US-A1-20080099060, US-A1-2008099060, US2008/0099060A1, US2008/099060A1, US20080099060 A1, US20080099060A1, US2008099060 A1, US2008099060A1
InventorsKristen P. Stocking, Katherine H.P. Huck
Original AssigneeStocking Kristen P, Huck Katherine H P
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Play structure assembly
US 20080099060 A1
Abstract
The present invention relates to a play structure assembly comprising a flexible sheet having a plurality of loops attached thereto. The type and location of the loops are described, as well as their use in forming a play area having multiple shapes and sizes.
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Claims(19)
1. A play structure assembly comprising
a) a flexible sheet having two opposing surfaces and a plurality of edges and corners,
b) a corner loop attached to each corner,
c) a plurality of exterior loops attached to each edge, and
d) a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface.
2. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the flexible sheet is rectangular or square.
3. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the two opposing surfaces are the same.
4. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the two opposing surfaces are different.
5. The play structure assembly of claim 1 comprising at least two exterior loops on each edge.
6. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the exterior loops are equally spaced on the edge.
7. The play structure assembly of claim 1 comprising at least four interior loops attached to one surface.
8. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the interior loops are geometrically spaced in a configuration having edges parallel to the edges of the flexible sheet.
9. The play structure assembly of claim 1 further comprising at least one center loop centrally attached to at least one surface.
10. The play structure assembly of claim 9, wherein the corner loops, the interior loops, or the exterior loops are variable dimension loops.
11. The play structure of claim 10, wherein the interior loops and the center loop comprise two loop segments, each segment having one end fixedly attached to the flexible sheet and one end configured to connect to the other loop segment to form the interior loop or center loop.
12. The play structure assembly of claim 11, wherein the loop segments are configured to tie together.
13. The play structure assembly of claim 11, where the loop segments are configured to adhere to each other.
14. The play structure of claim 10, wherein the interior loops and the center loop comprise one loop segment having one end fixedly attached to the flexible sheet and one end configured to connect to the other loop segment or to an attachment site on the flexible sheet to form the interior loop or center loop.
15. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the exterior loops and the corner loops are variable dimension loops comprising two loop segments, each segment having one end fixedly attached to the flexible sheet and one end configured to connect to the other loop segment to form the exterior loop or corner loop.
16. The play structure assembly of claim 1, wherein the exterior loops and the corner loops are elastic.
17. The play structure assembly of claim 1, further comprising at least one et attached to at least one surface.
18. A play structure assembly comprising
a) a circular flexible sheet having two opposing surfaces and an edge,
b) a plurality of exterior loops attached to the edge, and
c) a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface.
19. A play area comprising at least one play structure assembly of claim 1.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/855,091, filed Oct. 27, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a play structure assembly that can be used to form play areas such as forts and tents for children.

2. Description of the Related Art

A variety of different types of play structures are known that can be erected to form a shaped play area for children. Typically such structures are self-supporting, meaning that they comprise a structural means by which the assembly can hold its own shape. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,071,174 and 6,168,495 describes portable child amusement and educational centers that comprise a tent having flexible walls supported by a frame. In addition, U.S. Pat. No. 6,014,982 relates to a pyramidal tent-like structure comprising a pair of continuous flexible support members or rods that can be bent in a semi-circular configuration to form the play structure. Also, U.S. Pat. No. 3,960,161 describes a portable structure that can be used to form a tent which comprises a continuous loop of a flexible coilable resilient material as a support for the structure. Other types are also known. However, self-supporting structures are typically not compact or easily assembled and disassembled, particularly by a child.

Non-self supporting play structures are also known. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,069,623 describes an educational play structure comprising a flexible panel having four side panels that can be mounted on a card table to be used to form an enclosure for children. The side panels are releasably connected to each other. Also, a commercially available product includes sections of flexible sheet of colorful fabric that, in combination with rope and clips, can be used to form a play structure such as a tent of fort. However, these structures require specific devices (such as a card table or a strung rope) for forming the play structure and cannot be used more generally for forming such structures anywhere.

Therefore, there is a need to provide a play structure assembly that can be easily used by a child to create variably shaped play areas in a wide variety of locations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a play structure assembly comprising a flexible sheet having two opposing surfaces and a plurality of loops. In one embodiment of the invention, the flexible sheet is rectangular or square and the assembly comprises a corner loop attached to each corner, a plurality of exterior loops attached to each edge, and, a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface. In a second embodiment of the invention, the flexible sheet is circular, and the assembly comprises a plurality of exterior loops attached to the edge and a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface. For both embodiments, preferably the assembly further comprises a center loop centrally attached to the flexible sheet. The present invention further relates to a play tent formed using the disclosed play structure assembly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 a-1 e show various examples of types of loops that can be used for the play structure assembly of the present invention.

FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 show specific examples of the play structure assembly of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a play structure assembly that can be used to form play areas for a child having multiple and changeable shapes.

The play structure of the present invention comprises a flexible sheet having loops attached to specifically chosen locations, described in more detail below. The flexible sheet may have any desired shape, including, for example, circular, oval, or polyhedral, such as rectangular, square, or hexagonal. Preferably, the sheet is square or rectangular. The sheet may be prepared using any material known in the art, but is preferably a soft fabric that is both durable and easy to clean, such as fleece, nylon, polyester, or cotton. The sheet may also be a microfibrous material, such as polynylon, or a polyester-nylon blend. The size of the sheet can be varied depending on the intended use. For example, when the flexible sheet is square or rectangular, the area of the sheet may be between about 15 square feet and about 150 square feet, preferably between about 35 square feet and about 100 square feet. Furthermore, the sheet may have at least one side having a length of between about 4 feet and about 12 feet, preferably between about 6 feet and about 10 feet. Also as an example, the flexible sheet can be circular, having a diameter of between about 4 feet and about 10 feet.

The flexible sheet has two opposing surfaces, and each surface may be the same or different. Also, the sheet may be one layer of material or multiple layers of the same or different materials. For example, the flexible sheet may be a single layer of a colored material with each surface being the same. Also, this single layer of material may have an image or design imprinted or stitched into one surface, such as an image of the outside of fort or house. Thus, the flexible sheet may comprise a single layer of material having the same or different opposing surfaces. Also, two layers of materials may be used, resulting in a flexible sheet having different opposing surfaces (if the two materials differ) or same opposing surfaces (if the two materials are the same).

The sheet may further comprise pockets or pouches attached to at least one of the surfaces, and these may be either permanent or detachable. Also, portions of the sheet may comprise various slits, flaps, or cut-out sections, in order, for example, to form a door or window section.

The play structure assembly of the present invention further comprises a plurality of loops, straps, or flexible handles attached to various locations on the flexible sheet. As used herein, the term “loop” or “strap” or “handle” refers to a narrow segment of material forming a closed shape that is capable of being wrapped around or over an object, such as the back of a chair or door knob. The loop may be any size and is preferably between about 1 inch and about 6 inches in diameter, more preferably between about 1 inch and about 4 inches in diameter. Also, the loop may be any width, such as between about 0.5 inches to about 2 inches, including between about 1 inch and about 1.5 inches.

Examples of types of loops are shown in FIG. 1 a-1 e. Thus, for example, the loop may comprise one loop segment, such as a narrow strip of material, having two ends, wherein both ends are fixedly attached to the flexible sheet, examples of which are shown in FIG. 1 a and FIG. 1 b. Each end may be attached to the same location on the flexible sheet (as in FIG. 1 a) or may be attached in close proximity to each other (as in FIG. 1 b). Such loops would be considered to be fixed dimension loops, meaning that, once formed, the diameter of the loop cannot be changed. For such loops, any rigid or non-elastic material known in the art may be used, including, for example, various synthetic or natural fabrics (such as nylon), ropes, or cords.

The loops attached to the flexible sheet may also have a diameter that can be changed or adjusted, examples of which are shown in FIG. 1 c, FIG. 1 d, and FIG. 1 e. Such variable dimension loops provide greater flexibility in the use of the play structure assembly of the present invention, enabling it to be used to form a play area for a child having multiple and changeable shapes and designs in a wide variety of locations, and are therefore preferred. For example, the variable dimension loop may comprise one loop segment, such as a narrow strip of material, having two ends, wherein one end is fixedly attached to the flexible sheet and the other end is configured to attach or connect to either an attachment site on the flexible sheet near the fixed end (as in FIG. 1 c) or along the length of the loop segment (as in FIG. 1 d). The arrow in these figures shows how the loop is formed by attaching the configured end to the attachment site. Such a loop can be made of any material comprising an adhesive or adherable section, such as Velcro. In addition, the loop may comprise two loop segments, such as two narrow strips of material, each having two ends, wherein one end of each loop segment is fixedly attached to the same or proximal locations on the flexible sheet and wherein the other ends of each loop segment are configured to connect together, thereby forming the loop (as shown in FIG. 1 e). The loop may be formed, for example, by tying the unattached ends together or by adhering the unattached end of one loop segment to the unattached end of the other loop segment using an adhesive or adherable section, such as Velcro. Also, the variable dimension loop may be elastic, thereby being able to stretch over an object or around an object. Other combinations are possible, including, for example, elastic loop segments fixedly attached on one end to the flexible sheet and the other end configured to adhere or tie together. In these ways, the dimension of the loop can be changed, and the play structure assembly may be more securely attached to an object to form a variety of different types of play areas.

The loops are attached to the flexible sheet both along the exterior edges as well as at various locations on at least one surface of the sheet. The number and location of the loops will depend on the size and shape of the flexible sheet. For example, if the flexible sheet is polyhedral, such as a rectangle or square, the play structure assembly comprises a corner loop attached to each corner, a plurality of exterior loops attached to each edge, and a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface. For non-polyhedral shapes, such as oval or circular sheets, no corner loops are present and, therefore this type of play structure assembly comprises a plurality of exterior loops attached to the edge and a plurality of interior loops attached to at least one surface.

The exterior loops may be located anywhere along the edge or edges of the flexible sheet. Preferably, these loops are equally spaced along the edges. For example, for a rectangular or square flexible sheet, the play structure assembly may comprise at least two exterior loops along each edge, and these can be attached at locations of ⅓ and ⅔ of the length of the edge. In a similar way, the play structure assembly may comprise at least three exterior loops on each edge, and these can be attached at equidistant points along the edge. The more exterior loops, the greater the flexibility in using the play structure assembly of the present invention for forming a child's play area. However, too many loops may become excessive. Preferably, there are 2-6 exterior loops along the edge of flexible sheet.

The interior loops may be located anywhere on either opposing surfaces of the flexible sheet. Preferably, the loops are all on one of the surfaces. Also, in order to more easily form play areas having defined shapes, it is preferred that the interior loops are geometrically spaced in a configuration having an edge or edges parallel to the edge or edges of the flexible sheet. This configuration should be centrally located on the surface of the flexible sheet. For example, if the flexible sheet is square or rectangular, it is preferred that the interior loops are arranged such that they also form a square or rectangle with edges parallel to the external edges of the sheet. A sufficient number of interior loops are used in order to form this configure. Additional internal loops may also be used, which provides greater the flexibility in forming multiple types of play areas. Preferably, there are 4-8 interior loops.

The play structure of the present invention preferably further comprises a center loop located in the geometric center of the flexible sheet. This is also centrally located with the configuration of interior loops. This center loop provides additional flexibility in designing and creating play areas.

Each of these loops may be a fixed or variable dimension loop, but preferably all of the loops are some type of variable dimension loop. For example, the corner loops, if present, and the exterior loops attached to the edge or edges of the flexible sheet can be either elastic or comprise two loop segments that can either be tied together or adhered together, to form the exterior or corner loop. The interior loops attached to at least one of the surfaces and the center loop, if present, are preferably non-elastic variable dimension loops.

Specific embodiments of the present invention are shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, which show specific examples of the play structure assembly of the present invention. These figures are meant to further clarify the present invention and are intended to be only exemplary in nature.

In FIG. 2, the play structure assembly comprises a square flexible sheet 10 having one surface 11, four edges, 12, and four corners, 13. The opposing surface is behind the schematic and is therefore not shown. Either surface may comprise a printed image or color, although, for simplicity, none is shown. To each corner is attached a corner loop, 14. Also, two exterior loops, 15, are shown attached to each edge, and these are equally spaced along each edge. Additional loops may also be used. This play structure assembly further comprises four interior loops, 16, attached to the surface, 11. The interior loops are positioned along the diagonals of the square flexible sheet, forming a square configuration, 17, and the edges of this configuration are each parallel to the edges, 12, of the flexible sheet. Additional loops may be attached along the edges of the interior square configuration. Finally, in the geometric center of the flexible sheet is attached a center loop, 18.

In FIG. 3, the play structure assembly comprises a square flexible sheet 20 having one surface 21, four edges, 22, and four corners, 23. The opposing surface is behind the schematic and is therefore not shown. Either surface may comprise a printed image or color, although, for simplicity, none is shown. To each corner is attached a corner loop, 24. Also, a plurality of exterior loops, 25, are shown attached to each edge, four on one pair of opposite edges, which are equally spaced, and six on the other. This play structure assembly further comprises nine interior loops, 26, attached to the surface, 21. The interior loops are positioned to form a square configuration, 27, and the edges of this configuration are each parallel to the edges, 22, of the flexible sheet. Also, in the geometric center of the flexible sheet is attached a center loop, 28. In addition, the play structure includes a window section, 29, and a door section, 30. The window further comprises a flap, 29 a, that can fold over the opening that forms the window, from either opposing surface of the flexible sheet, allowing it to be closed or hidden. The door comprises two sections which can overlap slightly in order to be able to attach one section to the other, allowing the door to be closed. Also, pockets, 31, are shown in each corner of the flexible sheet, which can be used, for example, to hold weights to the further stabilize a play structure prepared from this assembly or to hold objects and accessories. Finally, various hidden pockets, particularly between the two opposing surfaces with a sealable opening from either surface, can be included for storing additional play items and accessories.

The play structure assembly of the present invention is non-self supporting, meaning it does not comprise a structural means by which it can hold a defined shape. Rather, this assembly is compact and portable, and can be rolled up for easy storage. Since this assembly is able to lie flat, it can be used as both a play mat and as a decorative wall hanging. Furthermore, the play structure assembly can be used to form a play area having a defined shape, such as a play tent, fort, or house. The loops of the play structure assembly may be hooked onto a wide variety of household items, including furniture, such as the backs of chairs, handrails, and door knobs. Any or all of the loops may be used, producing a wide variety of play areas shapes and sizes. The interior loops, in particular, provide the play structure assembly with multiple means to design and create a wide variety of different types of play areas quickly and easily. For example, by utilizing the interior loops, a play area can be formed having a roof and multiple sides, similar to fort or play house. This play area can then be readily taken down and reused to form another different play area, even in a different location. Also, multiple play structure assemblies can be used in combination to prepare a play structure. In particular, if the loops, such as the edge loops, are variable dimension loops that can be opened and closed by tying, loops from different play structure assemblies may be tied together to form a larger play area. The design of the play structure assembly of the present invention provides an extremely flexible means to prepare play areas for children.

The foregoing description of preferred embodiments of the present invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings, or may be acquired from practice of the invention. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principles of the invention and its practical application to enable one skilled in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto, and their equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8051865 *Apr 15, 2011Nov 8, 2011Yvonne UrangaCanopy for umbrellas
US8132584 *Oct 14, 2009Mar 13, 2012Patrick LaneUniversal gazebo cover
US8381750 *Dec 1, 2009Feb 26, 2013P&T Products, Ltd.Hunting blind having a camouflaging sloped profile
Classifications
U.S. Classification135/115
International ClassificationE04H15/54
Cooperative ClassificationE04H15/006, A63H33/008
European ClassificationE04H15/00C, A63H33/00H
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Nov 9, 2011ASAssignment
Effective date: 20110816
Owner name: ASAHI GLASS COMPANY, LIMITED, JAPAN
Free format text: CORPORATE ADDRESS CHANGE;ASSIGNOR:ASAHI GLASS COMPANY, LIMITED;REEL/FRAME:027197/0541