Title:
Modular play gym for children
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A children's play gym including a frame with an elongated tubular top rail having an inside surface, an outside surface and a lengthwise keyway between said surfaces, a plurality of legs, each leg having an upper end wall encircling the top rail, and an anchor releasably anchoring the upper end wall of each leg to the top rail. Each anchor includes a bracket bridging the keyway at that inside surface, and a threaded fastener extending through a hole in the end wall and through said keyway and being threaded into the bracket. This enables the upper end wall of each leg to be slid relative to the top rail and then clamped to the top rail at any location therealong by tightening the threaded fastener.



Inventors:
Bork, Frank (Schellsburg, PA, US)
Ziegler, William H. (Bedford, PA, US)
Severa, Michael (Cheswick, PA, US)
Application Number:
10/874935
Publication Date:
08/11/2005
Filing Date:
06/23/2004
Assignee:
BORK FRANK
ZIEGLER WILLIAM H.
SEVERA MICHAEL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/37
International Classes:
A63B7/04; A63B17/00; A63B17/04; (IPC1-7): A63B7/04; A63B17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BAKER, LORI LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CESARI AND MCKENNA, LLP (BOSTON, MA, US)
Claims:
1. A children's play gym comprising a frame including an elongated tubular top rail having an inside surface, an outside surface and a lengthwise keyway between said surfaces which extends along said top rail, a plurality of legs, each leg having an upper end wall encircling the top rail, and an anchor releasably anchoring the upper end wall of each leg to the top rail, each anchor including a bracket bridging the keyway at said inside surface, and a threaded fastener extending through a hole in said end wall and through said keyway and being threaded into the bracket whereby the upper end wall of each leg can be slid along to the top rail and clamped to the top rail at a selected location therealong by tightening said threaded fastener.

2. The play gym defined in claim 1 wherein the anchor on at least one of the legs also includes a perforated bearing member engaging said end wall of that leg, and a threaded fastener extending through said bearing member.

3. The play gym defined in claim 1 wherein said upper end wall of each leg includes a key which slidably keys into said keyway to fix the angular position of said upper end wall relative to the top rail.

4. The play gym defined in claim 1 wherein said angular position is fixed so that the associated leg extends out from the top rail at an angle appreciably greater than 45°.

5. The play gym defined in claim 1 and further including at least one additional anchor secured to the top rail at said keyway, each additional anchor including an additional bracket bridging the keyway at said inner surface; a bearing member bridging the keyway at said outer surface, said bearing member having a hole located opposite the keyway, and an additional threaded fastener extending through said hole in the bearing member and through said keyway and being threaded into the additional bracket, said additional fastener having a head defining an anchoring point for a children's ride.

6. The play gym defined in claim 5 wherein the bearing member includes a key which slidably keys into the keyway to fix the angular position of the bearing member relative to top rail.

7. The play gym defined in claim 6 wherein said hole in the bearing member extends through said key therein.

8. The play gym defined in claim 6 and further including a hanger having an upper end swingably secured to said anchoring point.

9. The play gym defined in claim 1 and further including a perforated ride support member having opposite ends and engaging the underside of the frame top rail cross-wise, and an additional anchor secured to the top rail at said keyway, said additional anchor including an additional bracket bridging the keyway at said inside surface, and an additional threaded fastener extending through the support member and through the keyway and being threaded into said additional bracket whereby the support member can be slid to a selected location along the top rail and clamped in place by tightening the additional threaded fastener.

10. The play gym defined in claim 9 further including a perforated bearing member engaging under said support member, and wherein the additional threaded fastener extends through the bearing member.

11. The play gym defined in claim 10 wherein the bearing member includes a key which slidably keys into the keyway to fix the angular position of the bearing member relative to the top rail.

12. The play gym defined in claim 9 and further including a pair of hangers having opposite ends pivotally connected to the opposite ends of the support member.

13. The play gym defined in claim 1 and further including a slide having opposite ends and being positioned between adjacent legs of said frame, and securing devices at the opposite ends of the slide for releasably securing the slide to said lower ends of the adjacent legs.

14. The play gym defined in claim 1 and further including an enclosure composed of panels extending between adjacent legs of said frame, and securing devices for releasably securing said panels to said adjacent legs.

15. The play gym defined in claim 1 and further including a container releasably attached to at least one of said plurality of legs, each said container having a fill opening for filling the container with a relatively heavy fluid material.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application has the benefit of Provisional application No. 60/543,254, filed Feb. 24, 2004.

This invention relates to children's play gyms, swing sets and the like. It relates especially to a modular play gym which can be assembled in many different configurations.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Children's play gyms and swing sets invariably include a rigid frame capable of supporting one or more activity toys or rides such as swings, glide rides, slides, rings, etc. The frame often consists of an elongated rigid top rail or spine supported horizontally above the ground by a plurality of legs which extend from the top rail down to the ground at an angle to give the frame a relatively large footprint for stability purposes. In its simplest form, the top rail may be supported at opposite ends by A-frames.

The various support legs, rides and activity toys are suspended from the top rail by fasteners or brackets. For this, holes are provided at selected locations along the top rail to accommodate these fasteners and brackets. Each different ride or toy requires its own set of holes in the top rail. Thus the number, type and locations of the rides that can be supported by a particular frame is fixed at the time of manufacture. This means that once a consumer has purchased a given swing set, the configuration of the swing set is determined by the locations of the fastener holes in the top rail. In other words, the consumer is not able to switch the positions of a swing or a glide ride or replace a swing with a wider swing capable of supporting two children. Nor can the consumer easily add more rides to a given frame because the length of the frame is fixed and there are usually no extra fastener holes in the frame's top rail to accommodate the fasteners or brackets for those additional rides. In other words, the consumer cannot expand a given play gym from an originally smaller one to a larger version or even reconfigure an existing play gym.

Some conventional play gyms are also disadvantaged in that they are not as stable as they might be because their legs splay out at only a 45° angle and they may not be adequately anchored to the ground. Resultantly, when children are using the play gym's swings, for example, the frame may rock back and forth.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide an unusually versatile children's play gym or swing set.

Another object of the invention is to provide such a play gym or swing set whose frame has legs which can be positioned at any location along the frame's top rail or spine.

A further object of the invention is to provide a play gym of this type whose rides or activity toys can be placed at any location on the frame without altering the frame's top rail.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a children's play gym or swing set whose frame can be expanded easily to support additional rides or activity toys.

A further object of the invention is to provide a children's play gym which is quite stable in use.

Another object of the invention is to provide a play gym or swing set whose rides can be reconfigured or changed with a minimum amount of effort.

A further object of the invention is to provide such a play gym which allows the consumer to easily replace the original rides on the gym with new models introduced after the original purchase.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a frame for children's play gyms or swing sets which enables consumers to customize their purchases.

Other objects will, in part, be obvious and will, in part, appear hereinafter.

The invention accordingly comprises the features of construction, combination of elements and arrangement of parts which will be exemplified in the following detailed description, and the scope of the invention will be indicated in the claims.

Briefly, the subject play gym or swing set includes the usual frame for supporting one or more rides or activity toys. However, the frame is unique in that its rigid top rail or spine is formed at its underside with a keyway which extends the length of the top rail. In other words, if the top rail is metal tube, the tube is provided with a longitudinal slot or channel to which the various support legs and rides may be keyed so that the legs and rides may be positioned at any location along the top rail. This construction also allows a plurality of top rails to be coupled together end to end to increase the length, and thus the capacity and versatility, of the play gym.

As will be described in more detail later, the upper end of each leg and the fasteners and brackets supporting the various rides are adjustably secured to the top rail by special anchor assemblies which key into the top rail keyway and clamp to that rail so that each leg and each ride can be positioned and repositioned on the frame with a minimum of effort and without requiring any tools other than a wrench.

Also as will be seen, the legs of the subject swing set may be arranged to splay out at a relatively large angle from the top rail and to be weighted to the ground so as to maximize the stability of the play gym. Resultantly, even when several children are using the play gym simultaneously, its frame does not tend to rock back and forth due to the swinging motions of those children.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a children's play gym or swing set having a selected leg and ride configuration;

FIG. 2 is a similar view of the FIG. 1 unit with a different leg and ride configuration;

FIG. 3A is a fragmentary exploded perspective view on a larger scale showing the attachment of an end leg to the top rail of the FIGS. 1 and 2 play gym;

FIG. 3B is a sectional view taken along line 3B-3B of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view on a larger scale showing the attachment of an intermediate leg to the top rail of the FIGS. 1 and 2 play gym;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view on a larger scale taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 1 showing the attachment of a swing bracket to the top rail of the play gym, and

FIG. 6 is a similar view taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 1 showing the attatchment of a glide ride to that top rail.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENT

Referring to FIG. 1 of the drawings, the subject play gym or swing set comprises a rigid frame shown generally at 10 which supports above the ground or other support surface a plurality of different rides or activity toys exemplified by a swing 14 having hangers 14a, a pair of rings 16 having hangers 16a and a glide ride 18 having hangers 18a (see U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,256,300 and 5,326,326).

Frame 10 includes a top rail or spine 24 composed of two sections 24a and 24b connected together end to end by a coupling 26. Top rail 24 is supported above the ground by various legs such as end legs 28 and intermediate legs 32. These legs are splayed or angled out from top rail 24 at a relatively large angle greater than 45°, e.g. as much as 60°, to optimize the stability of frame 10. To further stabilize the frame, the lower ends of legs 28 and 32 may be weighted down by stabilizers removably attached to the lower ends of the legs, as shown by the stabilizer 34 on the foremost leg 32 in FIG. 1.

Refer now to FIG. 2 which shows how the FIG. 1 play gym can be reconfigured to relocate the various interior legs 32 to accommodate updated or different rides or toys such as a trapeze 36 having hangers 36a, a glide ride 38 having hangers 38a (see U.S. Pat. No. 5,163,828 and 5,505,664), a combined climb/slide activity toy 40 and a vented tent 42 which may protectively enclose a toy T such as a sandbox or wading pool.

If desired, the right-hand end leg 28 and tent 42 in the FIG. 2 unit may be omitted so that the top rail 24 has a right-hand end overhang to accommodate a swing 14. In that event, the open end of the top rail 24 may be closed by a suitable end cap (not shown).

Also, like the play gym in FIG. 1, the frame 10 of the FIG. 2 play gym may be stabilized by leg weights or stabilizers one of which is shown at 44 on the foremost leg 32 in FIG. 2. This stabilizer 44 is somewhat different from the stabilizer 34 as well be described later.

Referring now to FIGS. 3A and 3B, each section 24a, 24b of top rail 24 has a keyway 46 at its underside which extends the entire length of that section. Since the illustrated top rail is in the form of a tube, the keyway 46 is a slot defined by a pair of spaced-apart flanges 46a formed by bending up the wall of the tube at each side of the keyway 46. These flanges rigidify the slotted tube and provide bearing surfaces for reasons that will become apparent.

Each leg 28 comprises an elongated tube whose upper end is bent more or less at a right angle to form an elbow 28a sized to telescopically receive the end of a top rail section 24a or 24b. A hole 48 is formed in the underside of elbow 28a at a position such that when the leg 28 is angled out about 60° relative to the center line of the top rail 24, the hole 48 is aligned with the keyway 46.

Leg 28 may be secured to the top rail section 24a (or 24b) by an anchor assembly shown generally at 54. The anchor assembly includes an inverted U-shaped bracket 56 which is sized to slide inside top rail section 24a (or 24b) so that it can engage over the flanges 46a,46a therein as shown in FIG. 3B. The anchor assembly 54 also includes a bearing member in the form of a curved washer 57 which may be positioned against the underside of elbow 28a in alignment with hole 48, and a threaded fastener 58 which may be inserted through the hole in the washer 58 and through hole 48 in the elbow and turned down into a threaded hole 56a in bracket 56. With assembly 54 being loosely secured to elbow 28a as aforesaid, the elbow may be engaged over the end of section 24a (or 24b) as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 such that bracket 56 slides onto the ends of, and engages over, flanges 46a, 46a as seen in FIG. 3B. Then, fastener 58 may be tightened to firmly clamp top rail section 24a (or 24b) between bracket 56 and washer 57 thereby fixing the position of leg 28 relative to top rail 24. Preferably, the underside of elbow 28a is upset to form an internal key, boss or rib 59 which is aligned with hole 48 so that when the elbow 28a is engaged on the end segment of top rail section 24a (or 24b) as shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the key 59 will engage in keyway 46 and thus help fix the angular position of leg 28 relative to the top rail section to which it is attached.

Referring now to FIG. 4, each intermediate leg 32 of frame 10 comprises a straight elongated tubular section 62 and a T-shaped coupling 64. The leg of coupling 64 consists of a socket 64a for receiving the upper end segment of leg section 62. Section 62 may be secured to the coupling by a threaded fastener 66 inserted through a hole 68 in leg section 62 and threaded into a hole 72 in the coupling socket 64a.

The arms of coupling 64 are formed by an open-ended sleeve 64b sized to receive a top rail section 24a or 24b. Like the elbow 28a of end leg 28, sleeve 64b is formed with a hole 74 for attaching an anchor assembly 54 to coupling 64. The threaded fastener 58 of that assembly is inserted through the washer 57, through hole 74 and threaded loosely into a bracket 56 positioned inside sleeve 64b. As with leg 28, the hole 74 is located on the sleeve so that when the sleeve is slid onto an end of a top rail section 24a or 24b, the socket 64a will splay out about 60° relative to that top rail section. Coupling 64 and its leg section 62 may be slid to any desired location along the top rail section. When that location is reached, the fastener 58 may be tightened to clamp the coupling to the top rail section at that location. Preferably, the wall of the sleeve 64b is upset to provide an internal rib 76 in line with hole 74 to project into keyway 46 to help rotatably fix the coupling to the top rail section.

Thus using anchor assemblies 54, the legs 32 of the subject play gym may be positioned and repositioned to give frame 24 any desired configuration as typified by the ones illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. The leg 32 illustrated in FIG. 4 extends from top rail 24 toward the observer. That same leg may be made to extend away from the observer simply by turning leg 32 180° about its longitudinal axis so that the opposite end of its coupling sleeve 64b is inserted first onto the end of the associated top rail section 24a or 24b.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, the coupling 26 which connects the two top rail sections 24a and 24b may be simply a longer version of sleeve 64b so that it can receive appropriately long end segments of top rail sections 24a and 24b as shown in those figures. The coupling is fitted with two anchor assemblies 54 adjacent its opposite ends for clamping the coupling to both top rail sections 24a and 24b similar to the clamping of sleeve 64b just described.

Of course, those top rail sections need not be coupled together at all. Rather, the rings 16 in FIG. 1 may be omitted and additional legs 32 secured to the opposing ends of top rail sections 24a and 24b as shown in phantom in FIG. 1 to provide two separate but smaller play gyms.

Various ones of the rides depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 such as swing 14, rings 16, trapeze 36 are conventionally suspended from the play gym's top rail 24 by way of eye bolts inserted into predrilled holes in the top rail so that the locations of those rides are determined at the time of manufacture of the play gym. In contrast to that, the present play gym makes the eye bolt part of an anchor assembly shown generally at 82 which may be keyed into the top rail keyways 46 in the same manner as assemblies 54 described above.

More particularly and as shown in FIG. 5, each anchor assembly 82 comprises an inverted U-shaped bracket 84 similar to bracket 56 which may be engaged over the flanges 46a, 46a of a top rail section so as to span the keyway. Each assembly also includes a key 86 having a washer-like outer bearing section 86a and an upstanding keying section 86b adapted to project into a keyway 46 when the outer section 86a is positioned against the underside of a top rail section 24a or 24b. The key 86 is provided with a passage 88 for receiving the stem of an eye bolt 89 adapted to be screwed into a threaded hole 90 in the bracket 84. Thus, each anchor assembly 82 can be positioned and repositioned at any location along the top rail 24 of a given play gym as needed to suspend from the play gym frame 10 a variety of swing-type rides 14, 16, 36 of the type normally suspended via hangers or chains 14a, 16a, 36a from eye bolts or fasteners secured to the frame's top rail.

A similar anchor assembly may be utilized to adjustably position and reposition any of the glide rides customarily found on children's play gyms and which include hangers (e.g. 18a, 38a) mounted to the play gym frame by way of brackets similar to the brackets 92 supporting the ride 18 in FIG. 1 and the ride 38 in FIG. 2. As shown in FIG. 6, each bracket 92 is often in the form of a tube or an inverted U-shaped channel having a top wall 92a and a pair of opposite depending side walls 92b. The channel may be formed with a transverse groove 94 intermediate its ends which is sized and shaped to receive a sector of top rail 24 so that the bracket can be engaged against the underside of the top rail and extend perpendicular to the top rail as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The glide ride hangers 18a and 38a are usually pivotally connected to the opposite ends of one or more brackets 92.

Here, as shown in FIG. 6, each bracket 92 is adjustably fixed to the top rail 24 by means of an anchor assembly shown generally at 96 in that figure. Like assembly 82 described above, assembly 96 includes an inverted U-shaped bracket 98, a key 100 having a curved washer-like outer bearing section 100a and an upstanding keying section 100b which can key into the keyway 46 of a top rail section 24a or 24b. As before, the third component of the anchor assembly is a threaded fastener 102 which extends through a passage in key 100 and is threaded into a hole in the bracket 98. To secure a bracket 92 to frame 24, assembly 96 is installed loosely in the top wall 92a of the bracket and the bracket is slid onto an end of a top rail section 24a or 24b such that the bracket 98 of assembly 96 engages over the flanges 46a, 46a of the keyway in that section as shown in FIG. 6. The bracket and its anchor assembly is then slid along the top rail section to the desired location following which the fastener 102 is tightened to clamp the bracket 92 in place. Then the rides 18 and 38 may be pivotally connected to the brackets 92.

As seen from the foregoing, the modular play gym described herein with its special anchor assemblies for adjustably securing the legs and rides to the top rail of the play gym enables a variety of different rides to be repositioned on, and added to, the play gym. That is, rides and legs can be arranged in any desired configuration without having to alter the top rail of the play gym. Thus, consumers can replace older rides with new ones introduced by the manufacturer at any time after purchase of the frame 10 and they can expand their gyms from smaller ones to larger versions. Furthermore, the repositioning of the legs and rides can be accomplished quite easily simply by loosening with a wrench one bolt or fastener at each connection of a leg or ride to the top rail 24.

Due to the larger stance or footprint of the play gyms or swing sets described herein, those units are more stable in use. Also, the offset leg arrangement of the gyms depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 reduces the deflection of the top rail when it is subjected to multiple loads. Another advantage is that the open profile of the top rail 24, i.e. keyways 46, allows paint to reach the inside surface of the top rail when it is painted at the time of manufacture giving improved rust protection. Also, for the same reason, moisture and condensation can escape from the interior of the top rail when it is exposed to the weather.

The above described anchor assemblies also improve the play gym from an aesthetic standpoint in that much of the hardware supporting the various legs and rides is hidden inside the top rail.

As noted above, if desired, each leg of the play gym or swing set may be weighted down by a stabilizer such as the stabilizer 32 in FIG. 1 or the stabilizer 44 in FIG. 2 to further improve the stability of the play gym. The stabilizer 32 comprises a container 110 of plastic or the like. The container has a vertical axial passage 112 for slidably receiving the lower end segment of a leg 28 or 32. The container may be filled with fluid such as water or sand by way of a fill opening 114 which may thereafter be closed by a suitable cover or end cap (not shown). The stabilizer 32 may be formed as a single molded unit or as a clam shell structure comprising a pair of hinged-together mirror-image sections which may be clamped around the associated leg. The anchor 44 depicted in FIG. 2 comprises a discoid container 116 provided with a socket 18 for receiving the lower end segment of a leg 28 or 32. The container 116 may be filled with a fluid by way of a fill opening 120.

The climb/slide activity toy 40 in the FIG. 2 play gym may be fixed between any two adjacent legs 28, 32 of the play gym. The toy is a steeply bowed structure molded of a suitable weather resistant plastic material. It includes a smooth slide surface 124 bounded on both sides by curved rails 126 formed with relatively large notches 128 constituting foot holds which enable a child to climb to the top of the toy 40 so that he/she can slide down the slide surface 124 thereof. To fix the position of toy 40 relative to frame 24, sockets 132 may be provided at the four corners of the toy to receive the lower ends of at least two legs 28 or 32 between which the toy is located.

The tent 42 depicted in FIG. 2 has a generally triangular footprint and is composed of panels 42a of weather resistant material, the corners of the tent being secured to frame 10 by means of ties 42b. Suitable screened vent openings 42c may be provided in one or another of the panels to allow air to circulate within the tent when a child is at play.

It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above among those made apparent from the preceding description are efficiently attained. Also, since certain changes may be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.