Title:
Connection system for playground structure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A playground structure has a playhouse with a base and a platform. The base and platform are separated by a variety of vertical posts. The vertical posts are secured to the base by a plurality of supports that are positioned within pockets in the base. The vertical posts are secured to the platform by a plurality of supports positioned within pockets in the platform.



Inventors:
Heipp, Shawn (Middleburg Heights, OH, US)
Norton, John J. (Kent, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/185254
Publication Date:
01/01/2004
Filing Date:
06/27/2002
Assignee:
The Little Tikes Company a corporation of the State of Ohio
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
472/116
International Classes:
A63B17/00; A63B9/00; A63G21/00; (IPC1-7): E04H3/14; A63G31/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MATHEW, FENN C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Don W. Bulson, Esq. (RENNER, OTTO, BOISELLE & SKLAR 19th Floor 1621 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44115, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A playground structure comprising: a base having a plurality of pockets disposed therein; a plurality of first supports positioned within the pockets in the base; a plurality of vertical posts, wherein the vertical posts are secured to the base by the plurality of first supports positioned within the pockets in the base; a platform having a plurality of pockets disposed therein, the platform positioned above the base; and a plurality of second supports positioned within the pockets in the platform, the vertical posts secured to the platform by the plurality of second supports.

2. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the first support is circular with at least one outwardly extending projection, and the shape of the pocket in the base corresponds to the shape of the first support.

3. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the pocket in the base has an opening therethrough and is located within the underside of the base.

4. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the pocket in the base has an opening therethrough and is located within the top of the base.

5. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the first support has holes and the post has holes located at one end of the post, whereby the holes of the first support are aligned with the holes in the post and a fastener extends through the holes and secures the support to the post.

6. The playground structure of claim 3, wherein the base has at least one pocket with an opening therethrough positioned within the top surface of the base, whereby the pocket within the top surface is positioned over the pocket within the underside of the base.

7. The playground structure of claim 6, wherein the base has an opening extending from the top of the base, through the aligned pockets to the underside of the base.

8. The playground structure of claim 7, wherein the post is disposed in the base through the pocket in the underside of the base and the pocket in the top of the base.

9. The playground structure of claim 6, wherein an annular plate is positioned in the pocket in the top of the base for supporting the connection between the post and the base.

10. The playground structure of claim 9, wherein the annular plate has at least one hole disposed in the top surface for receiving a fastener to secure the annular plate to the base.

11. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the second support is circular with at least one outwardly extending projection, and the shape of the pockets in the platform corresponds to the shape of the second support.

12. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the pocket in the platform has a opening therethrough and is located within the underside of the platform.

13. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the second support has holes and the post has holes located at approximately the middle of the post, wherein the holes of the second support are aligned with the holes in the middle of the post and a fastener extends through the holes to secure the second support to the post.

14. The playground structure of claim 1, wherein the platform has an opening from the top of the platform, through the pocket to the underside of the platform.

15. The playground structure of claim 14, wherein the post is disposed in the platform such that the post extends through the pocket in the underside of the platform and upwardly out of the platform.

16. The playground structure of claim 15, wherein a roof is attached to the post extending upwardly from the platform thereby covering the platform.

17. A method of assembling a playground structure comprising the steps of: fastening one end of a post to a first support; placing a base on one side; inserting the post and first support combination through a hole in a bottom of the base, wherein the first support remains disposed within a pocket in the bottom of the base; turning the base so that the bottom of the base is positioned on the ground; positioning a plate over the post, wherein the plate is disposed within a pocket in the top of the base; inserting a second support on the free end of the post; fastening the second support to the post; and inserting the post and second support combination through a hole in a bottom of a platform, wherein the second support remains disposed within a pocket in the bottom of the platform.

18. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 17, wherein the step of fastening one end of a post to the first support further comprises the step of fastening a first support to a plurality of posts.

19. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, further comprising the step of inserting the post and first support combinations through holes located at corners of the base.

20. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein the step of fastening the first support to the post includes the step of aligning holes in the support with holes in the post and inserting a fastener through the holes to secure the first support to the post.

21. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein the step of positioning a plate over the post further includes positioning a plate over a plurality of posts.

22. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 21 further comprising the step of: fastening the plate to the base thereby securing the post to the base.

23. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 17 further comprising the step of: fastening the plate to the base thereby securing the post to the base.

24. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 22 further comprising the step of, inserting at least one fastener into the top of the plate to fasten the plate to the base.

25. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 23 further comprising the step of, inserting at least one fastener into the top of the plate to fasten the plate to the base.

26. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein prior to the step of fastening the second support to the post, positioning the second support at approximately the center of the post.

27. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein the step of fastening the second support to the post includes the step of aligning holes in the second support with holes in the post and inserting a fastener through the holes to secure the second support to the post.

28. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein the step of fastening the post to the second support further comprises fastening a second support to each of the plurality of posts.

29. The method of assembling the playground structure of claim 18, wherein the step of inserting the post and second support combination through a hole in a bottom of a platform includes positioning the post through the platform such that a portion of the post extends upwardly from the platform.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates in general to an outdoor playground set, and more particularly to a connection system for an outdoor playground set.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Outdoor playground sets are well known in the art. The playground sets are generally made from metal, plastic, wood or a combination thereof. The playground set typically includes a variety of activity devices such as swings, a slide, a rope for children to climb and a playhouse. The playground set is generally formed from a variety of components that interconnect to form the playground set.

[0003] For example, the components of the playground set formed from plastic have been interconnected in a tongue and groove fashion. The components of the playground set formed from wood have been interconnected by brackets secured to the component by a fastener, such as a bolt or a screw, or the wood components are secured to each other merely by fasteners. U.S. Pat. No. Des. 347,458 illustrates a child's play gym with a plurality of the members of the play system having a projection or a tongue extending in a outwardly direction. As shown in the illustrated play gym, the tongue portion would be in contact with the ground thereby requiring a hole in the ground or an additional anchoring component to secure the playground set. U.S. Pat. No. Des. 250,783, U.S. Pat. No. Des. 268,858 and U.S. Pat. No. Des. 440,623 illustrate playground sets that are formed from various components fastened together at a central point where the components intersect. The playground set of U.S. Pat. No. Des. 440,623 also includes a plurality of ladders which enable a child to reach the elevated activity system. Most of the ladders include a support secured to the bottom of the ladder thereby providing a means to balance the playground set.

[0004] The connection systems of the prior art playground sets, however, are often difficult to assemble since the playground component pieces are required to be fastened at certain angles or some of the components are required to be anchored within a hole in the ground. Also, the connection systems of the playground sets fail to provide a secure support that may be used on flat or uneven surfaces.

[0005] Therefore, it is desirable to provide a connection system for a playground set that is easy to assemble and provides a secure connection for the playground set.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] According to one aspect of the invention, a playground structure has a playhouse with a base and a platform. The base and platform of the playhouse are separated by a plurality of vertical posts. The posts are secured to the base by a plurality of supports that are positioned within a pocket in the base. The posts are secured to the platform by a plurality of supports that are positioned within a pocket in the platform.

[0007] According to another aspect of the invention, a method of assembling the playhouse is disclosed. The playhouse is assembled by fastening one end of a post to a support. The post and support combination is inserted through a hole in the bottom of the base while the base is positioned on its side. Once all of the posts are installed in the base, the base is turned so that the bottom surface of the base is on the ground. A plate is positioned over the post and disposed within a pocket in the bottom of the platform. A support is inserted on the free end of the post and fastened to the post. The post and support combination are inserted through a hole in the bottom of a platform. The support is disposed within a pocket in the bottom of the platform.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] Further aspects of the invention and their advantages may be discerned from the following description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which like characters number like parts and in which:

[0009] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the playground set of the present invention;

[0010] FIG. 2 is a top perspective partially exploded view of the playground set in FIG. 1;

[0011] FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the playground set of FIG. 1;

[0012] FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of the playground set taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

[0013] FIG. 5 is a sectional detail of the connection system of the playground set taken of section 5 in FIG. 4;

[0014] FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of the playground set of FIG. 1;

[0015] FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of the playground set taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6;

[0016] FIG. 8 is a sectional detail of the connection system of the playground set taken of section 8 in FIG. 7;

[0017] FIG. 9 is a bottom perspective view of the base plate used in the connection system of the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 10 is a top perspective view of the base plate of FIG. 9;

[0019] FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the base plate of FIG. 9;

[0020] FIG. 12 is a cross sectional view of the base plate taken along line 12-12 of FIG. 11;

[0021] FIG. 13 is a cross sectional view of the base plate taken along line 13-13 of FIG. 11;

[0022] FIG. 14 is a cross sectional view of the base plate taken along line 14-14 of FIG. 11;

[0023] FIG. 15 is a top perspective view of the base support used in the connections system of the present invention;

[0024] FIG. 16 is a bottom perspective view of the base support of FIG. 15;

[0025] FIG. 17 is a top plan view of the base support of FIG. 15;

[0026] FIG. 18 is a cross sectional view of the base support taken along line 18-18 of FIG. 17;

[0027] FIG. 19 is a cross sectional view of the base support taken along line 19-19 of FIG. 17;

[0028] FIG. 20 is a cross sectional view of the base support taken along line 20-20 of FIG. 19;

[0029] FIG. 21 is a top perspective view of the platform support used in the connection system of the present invention;

[0030] FIG. 22 is a bottom perspective view of the platform support of FIG. 21;

[0031] FIG. 23 is a top plan view of the platform support of FIG. 21;

[0032] FIG. 24 is a cross sectional view of the platform support taken along line 24-24 of FIG. 23;

[0033] FIG. 25 is a cross sectional view of the platform support taken along line 25-25 of FIG. 23; and

[0034] FIG. 26 is a cross sectional view of the platform support taken along line 26-26 of FIG. 25.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENT

[0035] FIG. 1 illustrates the playground set 100 of the present invention. The playground set includes a plurality of activity items for children. In the illustrated embodiment, the playground set includes, but is not limited to, a bi-level playhouse 110 with a roof 112, a rope climber 114, a slide 116, a ladder 118 and a sandbox 122 located within the first level of the playhouse 110. The various activity devices enable children to enter and exit the playhouse. The playhouse 110 and various activity devices, such as the slide 116 and ladder 118, are rotational molded from a material such as polyethylene. The playhouse also includes metal posts 180 that provide structural support for the playhouse.

[0036] As shown in FIG. 2, the bi-level playhouse includes a base 120 and a platform 140. The base 120 includes two containers 122, 124 where, if desired, one container 122 is used as a sandbox and the other container 124 may be filled with water. The base 120 includes a variety of attachment configurations used to attach the various activity devices to the playhouse 110 to form the playground set 100. In the illustrated embodiment, the base 120 includes a channel 126 to receive ladder 118, notches 128 to receive a support 117 for the slide 116 and grooves 130 to receive an end of the rope climber 114.

[0037] As shown in FIG. 4, the base 120 also includes a plurality of pockets 132, 134 formed therein. The pockets 132, 134 are located around the container 122 with at least one pocket positioned near each of the corners of the container 122. In the illustrated embodiment, the base 120 includes four pockets 132 that are formed within the underside or bottom 123 of the base 120. The base 120 also-includes two circular pockets 134 formed within the top 121 of the base. The circular pockets 134 located in the top 121 of the base 120 are positioned directly above the pockets 132 formed in the underside 123 of the base (See FIG. 5).

[0038] The base 120 also includes a plurality of circular openings 131. The post 180 are disposed within the openings 131. Each circular opening 131 extends from the top of the base, through pocket 134, if present, and pocket 132 to the bottom surface of the base. The posts 180 are secured to the base 120, as will be described in detail below, by a connection system that includes a plurality of support members.

[0039] The platform 140 of the playhouse 110 is supported above the base 120 by four metal posts 180. The platform 140 also includes circular openings 151 that are aligned with the circular openings 131 to enable the upright post 180 to be disposed therethrough. Each circular opening 151 extends from the top 141 of the platform 140, through pockets 150 to the bottom surface 143 of the platform 140. Thus, the metal posts 180 extend from the base 120, through the platform 140 to the roof 112 of the playhouse 110 (see FIG. 1).

[0040] The platform 140 also includes various attachment configurations used to attach the activity devices to the playground set. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the top surface 141 of the platform 140 includes notches 148 to receive the slide 116, grooves 146 for receiving the top of the rope climber 114, an opening 144 for receiving the top of the ladder 118 and channels 142 for receiving the sidewalls 113 of the playhouse 110.

[0041] The platform 140 also includes pockets 150 formed in the underside or bottom 143 of the platform 140. (See FIGS. 4 and 7). The pockets 150 are located near the corners of the platform 140 such that the pockets 150 align with the pockets 132 and 134 (if present) that are located in the base 120. Thus, the metal posts 180 may extend from the pockets 132, 134 in the base 120 through the pocket 150 in the platform to the roof 112. The posts 180 are secured to the platform 140, as will be described in detail below, by the connection system that includes a support member.

[0042] FIG. 3 illustrates a side view of the posts secured to the base and the platform of the playhouse. FIG. 6 illustrates a front view of the posts secured to the base and platform of the playhouse. FIGS. 4 and 7 illustrate the pockets 132 and 134 formed in the base 120 and the pocket 150 formed in the platform 140. FIGS. 4 and 7 also illustrate the support members 220, 240 and 260 located within the pockets 132, 134 and 150, respectively, that are used to secure the metal post 180 to the base 120 and the platform 140 of the playhouse 110.

[0043] The connection system used to connect the posts 180 to the base 120 is illustrated in FIG. 5. As previously discussed, the base 120 includes pockets 132 formed in the underside 123 of the base 120 and pockets 134 formed in the inside surface of the top 121 of the base 120. The pockets 132 and 134 are located near the corners of the container 122. The pockets 132 formed in the underside of the base 120 are sized to accommodate the base support 220 as installed on the post 180. The pockets 134 formed in the inside surface of the top 121 of the base 120 are sized to accommodate the base plate 240 as installed on the post 180.

[0044] FIGS. 9-14 illustrate the base plate 240 of the present invention. As shown in FIGS. 9-14, the base plate 240 is an annular collar or support. As shown in FIG. 9, the base plate 240 is partially hollow with a plurality of spaced apart ribs 243. The base plate 240 includes a top 242, a bottom edge 244, sides 246 and an inner sleeve 249 defined by a circular opening 248 therethrough. The opening 248 of the inner sleeve 249 is configured to matingly receive the posts 180. The size of the inner sleeve and the opening may vary depending on the circumference of the posts. The opening 248 in the base plate is aligned with the opening 131 in the base.

[0045] The top 242 of the base plate 240 includes indentations 254 positioned across from each other. In the illustrated embodiment, there are two indentations 254 that have a rectangular shape. The number of the indentations and the shape may vary. An opening or hole 250 is located in each of the indentations 254. The opening 250 defines a cavity 252 that is disposed in the base plate 240 and extends from the indentation 254 to the bottom edge 244. The opening 250 is adapted to receive a fastener to secure the base plate 240 to the pocket 134 positioned within the top 121 of the base 120.

[0046] FIGS. 15-20 illustrate the base support 220 of the present invention. The base support 220 has a top 221, a bottom edge 222 (see FIG. 16), sides 223 and a circular opening 224 located within the top 221. The opening 224 defines a cylindrical housing 234 with a bottom surface 236. The opening 224 in the housing is aligned with the opening 131 in the base. As shown in FIG. 16, the bottom surface 236 includes a plurality of fins 237 used to provide support to the cylindrical housing 234. The bottom surface 236 of the housing also includes a circular hole 238 to allow any moisture or condensation to escape the housing 234.

[0047] The base support 220 is defined by a circular portion 226 with two polyhedron shaped projections 228 extending from opposing sides of the circular portion 226. As such, as shown in FIG. 5, the pocket 132 includes a circular portion 135 with two polyhedron shaped projections 136 that extend from opposing sides. This enables the base support 220, as installed on a post, to matingly engage the pocket 132.

[0048] The base support 220 includes two sleeves 230 wherein each sleeve 230 extends from a hole 233 in the center of one of the projections 228 to the cylindrical housing 234 (see FIGS. 16 and 20). The sleeves 230 define an open passageway from the outer surface of the base support 220 to the cylindrical housing 234. The polyhedron shaped projections 228 include cavities 231 separated by an upright 232 (see FIG. 19). The cavities 231 are disposed within the top of the projection 228 and extend to approximately the middle of the projection 228. Each cavity 231 downwardly extends to the upper surface of the sleeve 230 thereby defining the shape of the sleeve 230. When the post 180 is installed in the base support 220, the holes 182 in the post 180 are aligned with the sleeves 230 so that a fastener 229, such as a bolt or a screw, may be inserted through the sleeves 230 and the post to secure the post 180 to the base support 220.

[0049] The connection system used to connect the post 180 to the platform 140 is illustrated in FIG. 8. The platform 140 includes pockets 150 formed in the underside 143 of the platform 140. The pockets 150 are sized to accommodate the platform support 260. The platform support 260 is illustrated in FIGS. 21-26. The platform support 260 is identical to the base support 220 except that the cylindrical housing 274 includes an opening 264 therethrough. The platform support 260 has a top 261, a bottom edge 262, sides 263 and a cylindrical housing 274 with an opening therethrough. The opening 264 is aligned with the opening 151 in the platform.

[0050] The platform support 260 is circular 266 with polyhedron shaped projections 268 extending from opposing sides, identical to the base post support 220 illustrated in FIGS. 15-20. The projections 268 include sleeves 270 that extend from a hole 273 in the projection 268 to a housing 274 defined by the opening 264. The projections 268 also include cavities 271 separated by an upright 272. The cavities 271 are located within the top of the projection 268 and are positioned in the middle of the projection 268. Each cavity 271 downwardly extends to the upper surface of the sleeve 270.

[0051] As illustrated in FIG. 8, the post 180 is positioned through opening 151 in the platform and the center of the platform support 260. The sleeves 270 of the platform support 260 align with the holes 184 in the post 180. A fastener 229, such as a bolt or a screw, is inserted through the sleeves 270 and the post 180 to secure the platform support 260 to the post 180.

[0052] The connection system of the present invention facilitates assembly of the playhouse. To assemble the playhouse, a post is inserted into one of the base supports. The holes and sleeves in the post are aligned with the holes in the base support. A fastener, such as a bolt, is inserted at one side of the base support and pushed through the aligned holes in the post and the base support. A nut is attached to the bolt at the opposite side of the base support to fasten the connection between the base support and the post. A base support is attached to one end of the remaining three posts used to form the playhouse.

[0053] Each post and base support combination is insert into one of the pockets located in the underside of the base. To facilitate installation, the base is placed on one side so that the underside or bottom of the base and the four pockets are exposed. Once the four post and base support combinations have been installed in the pockets in the underside of the base, the base is turned upright so that the bottom surface of the base and the base supports rest on the ground. The base supports anchor the posts to prevent the posts from pulling up through and out of the base.

[0054] A base plate is positioned over two posts and inserted into the pocket in the top of the base. The base plates are secured to the pocket and the base by fasteners, such as bolts. The base plate prevents the post from shifting or from being repositioned out of the base. As shown in FIG. 1, a ladder 118 is attached to one side of the base 120. The ladder 118 prevents the posts positioned adjacent the ladder from moving downward into the ground. As a result, it is not necessary to place a base plate over the posts that are positioned next to or on the same side as the ladder. Alternatively, if the playhouse does not include a ladder piece attached to the base, a base plate would be positioned over each post and disposed in a pocket in the base in order to secure the posts to the base.

[0055] Next, the top of the posts are connected to the platform supports. The platform supports are identical in shape to the base support except the platform supports are hollow. A platform support is inserted over the top of each of the posts. The holes and sleeves in the platform support are aligned with the holes in the middle of the post. A fastener, such as a bolt, is inserted at one side of the platform support and through the aligned holes to the other side of the platform support. A nut is inserted on the bolt to fasten the connection between the post and the platform support.

[0056] Next, the openings in the platform are aligned with the posts. The platform is lowered onto the four posts. The posts with the attached platform support are inserted into the openings located near the corners of the platform. The four posts extend from the top of the platform while the platform supports remain disposed in the pockets located in the underside of the platform. The platform supports support the platform and any weight that is exerted thereon. The roof of the playhouse is then attached to the posts that extend upwardly from the platform. The posts are inserted into openings located within the underside of the roof. Also, if desired, side walls may be attached to the post to form the walls of the playhouse.

[0057] The connection system described facilitates assembly of playhouses and provides a secure support for the structure that may be used on a variety of surfaces.

[0058] Therefore, while the invention has been described with respect to the illustrated embodiment, it is not limited thereto, but only by the scope and spirit of the appended claims.