Title:
Side-access toy container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container and method for storage and retrieval of children's toys and other items. The container includes an opening at the top and one or more hand port openings on the side walls. The hand port openings and walls may be transparent or translucent. An adult places the items through the top opening for storage and a child can then easily reach through a hand port to retrieve a desired item. The container allows for easy storage and organization of items, as well as easy retrieval by a child.



Inventors:
Salamone, Robert S. (Whittier, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/142092
Publication Date:
09/15/2005
Filing Date:
06/01/2005
Assignee:
My Toy Box, Inc., corporation CA
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45C7/00; (IPC1-7): A45C7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GROSSO, HARRY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Philip H. Haymond (Irvine, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A container for storing items, comprising: a container having a top side with a top opening proximal to or on the top side, a floor side, one or more enclosing side walls, having one or more transparent or translucent side walls or closeable access hand ports, and where the hand ports are formed on the side walls no higher than about three feet from the floor side, and the top opening is no higher than about six feet from the floor side.

2. The container of claim 1 where one or more of the enclosing side walls and one or more of the hand ports are translucent or transparent.

3. The container of claim 1 where one or more of the side walls are made of mesh material arrayed on a frame.

4. The container of claim 3 where the frame is collapsible from a first open configuration to a second, collapsed configuration.

5. The container of claim 4, where the frame of the container includes telescoping frame members or hinged frame members adapted to allow the frame to collapse.

6. The container for storing items of claim of claim 1 where at least one access port is self-closing.

7. The container for storing items of claim 6 where at least one of the self-closing hand ports is a slit opening, a spring-tensioned door or an opening hemmed with elastic material.

8. The container for storing items of claim 1, that further includes a rotating plate on the floor side, whereby the rotating plate will support items placed through the top opening and the plate may be rotated by a user to bring an closer to the user when reaching though a hand port.

9. The container for storing items of claim 1 where the container further comprises a base, vertical frame members and side wall panels, the base having affixments adapted to receive the vertical frame members, the vertical frame members having attachment points to receive the side wall panels, whereby the vertical frame members may be inserted into the slots of the base and the side walls may be inserted into the grooves to assemble the container.

10. The container of claim 19, where the attachment points are grooves, the affixment points are slots and the side wall panels are rigid.

11. A method for using a container to hold and dispense items to a child, comprising the steps of: providing a container having a top side with a top opening proximal to or on the top side, a floor side, one or more enclosing side walls, having one or more transparent or translucent side walls or closeable access hand ports, and where the hand ports are formed on the side walls no higher than about three feet from the floor side, and the top opening is no higher than about six feet from the floor side, inserting one or more items through the top opening, reaching through a hand port and retrieving an item that was inserted though the top opening.

12. The method of claim 11 where one or more of the enclosing side walls and one or more of the hand ports are translucent or transparent.

13. The method of claim 11 where one or more of the side walls are made of mesh material arrayed on a frame.

14. The method of claim 13 where the frame is collapsible from a first open configuration to a second, collapsed configuration.

15. The method of claim 14, where the frame of the container includes telescoping frame members or hinged frame members adapted to allow the frame to collapse.

16. The method for storing items of claim of claim 11 where at least one access port is self-closing.

17. The method for storing items of claim 16 where at least one of the self-closing hand ports is a slit opening, a spring-tensioned door or an opening hemmed with elastic material.

18. The method for storing items of claim 11, that further includes a rotating plate on the floor side, whereby the rotating plate will support items placed through the top opening and the plate may be rotated by a user to bring an closer to the user when reaching though a hand port.

19. The method for storing items of claim 11 where the container further comprises a base, vertical frame members and side wall panels, the base having affixments adapted to receive the vertical frame members, the vertical frame members having attachment points to receive the side wall panels, whereby the vertical frame members may be inserted into the slots of the base and the side walls may be inserted into the grooves to assemble the container.

20. The method of claim 19, where the attachment points are grooves, the affixment points are slots and the side wall panels are rigid.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to containers and more particularly to an easily accessible container used for storing children's toys and other items and a method for employing the container.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Anyone who has children or toddlers understands that they scatter toys and keepsakes about the home. A child may take a toy or several toys then drop them after moving on to another diversion. Toys are soon scattered about the house, leaving an adult with the daily task of collecting and returning the items to a shelf or drawer or toy box.

The return and collection of children's toys or other items presents two difficulties. Collected items must first be sorted and then placed in their different storage locations. The storage locations must then also be accessible to the child for further use. With a standard toy box having a lid, a child must be physically developed enough to lift the lid and rummage through the toys piled in the box to find the desired object. Storing these same items in drawers presents analogous problems. Again the child must be physically developed enough to reach and open each drawer to locate a desired toy.

It would be useful then to have a container that both self-organizes items such as toys and allows those items to be easily located and accessed by a child. It would also be useful to have a container that is easily transportable to accommodate a child, such as a collapsible container.

A container with a transparent or translucent wall such as a mesh wall for a container is an ideal solution to the problem of locating an item within the container. Containers having mesh walls are known in the art. For example Kellogg et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,971,188 is to a collapsible mesh type container. Kellogg is comprised of rectangles of tubing covered with material and the tubing is lashed together with fabric. Kellogg however has a single opening that does not allow access to items except from the top, like an ordinary toy box.

Peska, U.S. Pat. No. 6,585,414B2 and its continuation U.S. patent application publication No. 2003/0194152A1 disclose a collapsible mesh laundry basket with a circular opening on one end and the continuation application also has a second, smaller circular access opening on one side. A pouch is sewn over the second opening to prevent items from falling through the second side. Peska, however, would not be suitable as a repository for children's belongings. Peska is drawn to a laundry basket and, even if it were enlarged enough in size to accommodate a child reaching through the access opening, to the shoulder height of a child, about twenty-four to thirty-six inches, would require that the child reach down through the pouch and through the access opening. The child would have to rummage through the items using only the forearm and drag a selected item through the pouch.

Hillis, U.S. Patent publication 2001/0038011A1 discloses a rigid collapsible box arrangement that may be stacked. The box has rigid walls with an access door in the side. The door includes a latching mechanism that is locked by members that interfere with each other when forced together. Hillis would not be an ideal solution purposes of the present invention however. Not only does Hillis describe a container with opaque sides, a user cannot see the interior items, it is a rigid box that would be more difficult to transport and store. Moreover a child might cut or chafe an arm on the rigid side wall while retrieving a toy through a door.

In summary, various containers that have mesh sides, that are otherwise transparent or translucent, that have openings in the sides or that are collapsible are known. These configurations however are not suitable for addressing the problem addressed by the present invention however. What is needed is a container that may be easily loaded with items and the items are easily located and accessed by a child. Transparent or translucent walls would be desirable in such a container because a child could first locate a stored toy or other item by seeing into the container through the walls of the container. It would further be advantageous to provide a container that can be easily transported.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A solution to the above problem has been devised. A container for storing items is provided that has a top side with an opening proximal to or on the top side itself. The container also has a floor side and one or more side walls forming an enclosure. The enclosure has one or more hand ports in the one or more side walls to allow a child to reach through and retrieve a toy or other item that has been deposited in the container through the top opening by an adult. The access hand ports formed on the side walls therefore should be no higher than about three feet, the height of child's reach, and the top opening should be no higher than about six feet, in each case length measured from the floor when the container is placed on a surface.

The hand ports and side walls are preferably transparent or translucent to allow a child to first look through them to locate a desired toy or item. In the preferred embodiment the side walls of the container are made of a frame supporting a side wall of mesh fabric, which is both translucent or transparent and is softer to the touch.

The frame of a mesh embodiment of the container made be made by any of the methods of the prior art. Linear frame members used may be hinged or formed to telescope, providing an additional method for collapsing the container.

It is also preferred that the hand ports be self-closing. The hand ports can be of many varieties, such as a door, a self-closing slit or an opening hemmed with elastic material. In the case of a door a tensioned spring may be used to cause the door to close itself.

A rotating plate, sometimes called a lazy Susan, can be placed on the floor to allow a child to reach through one hand port and move the rotating plate to bring a toy or item closer to that hand port, allowing wider access.

In one embodiment the container is made of individual sections to allow it to be disassembled, stored and reassembled. This embodiment includes a base, vertical frame members and side wall panels, the base having slots adapted to receive the vertical frame members. The vertical frame has grooves to receive the side wall panels and when the vertical frame members are inserted into the slots of the base, the side walls are then inserted into the grooves of the vertical members to assemble the container.

In this manner a container and method for using it makes it easy and convenient for an adult to collect the scattered toys and other belongings of a child and simply pour them through the top opening to store them. The child is likewise provided with a convenient container to locate and retrieve their toys and other items. The container allows for easy storage and organization of children's toys and other possessions by an adult while providing easy location and retrieval by a child.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the container of the present invention.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of another embodiment of the container of the present invention, having telescoping vertical members shown in an open position. FIG. 2B is the frame of 2A shown in a collapsed configuration. 2C is a perspective view of a similar embodiment to that of 2A but with hinged vertical members shown in an open position. FIG. 2D is the frame of 2C shown in a collapsed configuration.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the container of the present invention.

FIGS. 4A through 4C are perspective, top and exploded views of another embodiment of the container of the present invention

FIG. 5A is a detail view of one embodiment of a self-closing hand port, showing the port in a closed position, FIG. 5B shows the port in an open position.

FIG. 6A is a detail view of another embodiment of a self-closing hand port, showing the port in a closed position, FIG. 6B shows the port in an open position.

FIG. 7A is a detail view of another embodiment of a self-closing hand port, showing the port in a closed position, FIG. 7B shows the port in an open position.

DETAILED ESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The following description, and the figures to which it refers, are provided for the purpose of describing examples and specific embodiments of the invention only and are not intended to exhaustively describe all possible examples and embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of a container 10, generally, of the present invention having side walls 13 generally and an opening 12 at the top side 16. In this embodiment the container 10 is shown in the form of a rectangular enclosure 14 made from a transparent rigid material such as plastic. In the preferred embodiment the plastic or other material is clear or translucent to allow a user to see items 11 within the enclosure 14. Although it is not preferred, the enclosure 14 could be opaque with the hand port openings 20 being transparent. The enclosure 14 can be made from a single piece of material or from sides affixed together, here for example as front side 14F, left side 14L right side 14R and back side 14B. The container 10 further has a top side 16 with the opening 12 and a floor side 18.

The container 10, here enclosure 14, further includes one or more closeable openings which serve as hand ports 20, here doors 22, through which a child can reach to retrieve objects such as toys or other items 11 stored in the container 10. The height of the side walls 13, the distance between the floor side 18 and the top side 16, of a container 10 have to be no higher than is comfortable enough to allow an adult (shown as A) to put toys through the opening at the top 12, but also high enough such that the openings 20 are also at a comfortable height for a child (shown as C) to reach through. A reasonable maximum comfortable height for an adult to reach to place toys or items 11 through the top opening 12 is about six feet. The maximal height of a child's shoulder, for a child old enough to reach for toys, is generally about three feet or less, for a baby or toddler this height is even less, perhaps two feet. A reasonable maximum comfortable height for a child to retrieve toys or items 11 through an opening 20 then is about three feet. Therefore the height of the side walls 13 of a container 10 from the floor side 18 to the top side 16 should preferably be between two to six feet.

In the embodiment of FIG. 1 the hand port openings 20 used can be the door 22 shown in FIGS. 1, 5A and 5B, or another equivalent type of closeable hand port such as, for example, a closeable slit opening 36 shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, or the hemmed opening 32, shown in detail in FIGS. 7A and 7B. In FIG. 1 there are two doors 22 provided in this embodiment that provide access to children, the toddler C shown here operating one of the doors 22 to access the interior of the container 10.

The method of use of the present invention is straightforward. An adult collects loose toys or other children's items 11 and deposits them (motion shown by arrows) through the top side 16 opening 12 of a container 10, creating a pile of toys within the container 10. When the child wishes to retrieve a toy from the pile he first locates the toy through the translucent or transparent enclosure side walls 13 or hand port 20. After the desired toy has been located the child selects the hand port 20 most convenient to reach the desired item. The child moves a hand port opening 20 from a closed position to an open position and reaches through the hand port 20, illustrated as door 22, elastic hemmed opening 32 or slit 36 in different figures, to access the toy. The child then grasps the toy and pulls the it through the hand port to retrieve the toy. The hand port 20 is either self-closing or is then closed by the child after retrieving the toy.

In the embodiment of FIG. 1 the enclosure 14 is first filled with toys or other items 11 through the opening 12 on the top side 16 (motion shown with arrows). Thereafter a child locates a toy or item 11 within the enclosure 14 and opens a nearby door 22 (detailed in FIGS. 5A and 5B), allowing access to the interior of the enclosure 12. After retrieving the toy the child either shuts the door 22 or it is self-closes by action of a spring 21 adapted to be tensioned or biased in the closed position (shown in FIG. 6A).

In the preferred embodiment the container 10 side walls 13 are made with soft mesh fabric walls for an enclosure 26 as shown in FIG. 2A, also having a floor side 18, a top side 16 and an opening 12 at the top side. The container 10 includes linear frame members 27 used to form the frames a plurality of framed mesh side walls 30, similar to the general construction shown, for example, in Peska or Kellogg. As in Peska and Kellogg for example, the mesh enclosure 26 shown here is a container 10 whose frame 28 may be collapsed in ways that are known to those of skill in the art.

Any embodiment having linear frame members 27 may also be configured to be collapsed by providing concentric telescoping frame members 29 that collapse into themselves. In the embodiment of FIG. 2A the container 10 shown has four side walls 30 but this is by way of illustration. The number of side walls 30 comprising any container 10, and the overall shape of the container, is of less importance, a container could have three, five, six or seven framed side walls 30 to form a triangular, pentagonal, hexagonal or heptagonal container (not shown). In all cases where linear, straight frame members 27 are used they may optionally also be made to telescope to further collapse them. For example telescoping vertical frame members 29 may be used with the embodiment of FIG. 2A, thereby allowing them to be collapsed to move (shown by arrows) the container to a collapsed configuration shown in FIG. 2B.

A first hand port opening 20 is shown in FIG. 2A, in this embodiment a elastic hemmed opening 32. FIG. 7A shows detail of this type of opening in a closed configuration, where the opening is held closed by action of elastic material hemmed around the opening. FIG. 7B shows the elastic hemmed opening 32 in an open configuration, opened by a users hand being placed through the elastic hemmed opening 32. A second hand port opening 20 is also shown, in this embodiment a slit hand port opening 36. FIG. 6A shows detail of this type of opening in a closed configuration, where two sections of fabric 36A and 36B overlap or abut, and are held together by tensioning the side walls 13, 30 (shown by arrows). FIG. 6B shows the opening in an open position, when a hand shown as H is placed through the slit hand port 36. After a child pulls the toy though the slit hand port 36, the slit closes by action of the tensioned fabric to return to the configuration of FIG. 6A.

Frame members 27 may also be configured to be collapsed by providing hinges 31 in the frame members 27. In the embodiment of FIG. 2C the container 10 shown has four side walls 30 but again this by way of illustration. Hinged vertical frame members 31 may be optionally used to further collapse the container 10. Hinged vertical frame members 31 are used with the embodiment of figure 2C, thereby allowing them to be collapsed to move (shown by arrows) the container to a collapsed configuration position shown in FIG. 2D.

In this manner the various hand port openings 20 hold toys or other items 11 in the container while allowing a child to easily reach into the container to retrieve a toy through the hand port opening 20.

Now also referring to FIG. 3, the container 10 another mesh enclosure is shown having a mesh side wall 30 in a cylindrical configuration. The container 26 of this embodiment has a continuous side wall 30 made of a fabric mesh in this embodiment, a floor side 18, a top side 16 and a top opening 12 (vertical frame members are omitted in this figure for illustration). Again, this embodiment can also be made to collapse according to designs of the prior art such as Peska and Kellogg, or, to include the telescoping or hinged linear frame members of FIGS. 2A-2C to collapse. This embodiment can also be used with several hand ports 20 on the mesh side wall 30 to allow the child to access the toys within the container.

Also included in the embodiment of FIG. 3 is a rotating floor plate 38, commonly referred to as a lazy Susan, placed on or incorporated into the floor side 18. The rotating floor plate 38 further allows access to the items 11 in the container, allowing a child to move the plate to bring a particular item placed on the plate closer to a given hand port 20.

FIGS. 4A through 4C show another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment the container 10 is made of easily-assembled component parts. The illustration of FIGS. 4A through 4C is not intended to limit the diassembleable embodiment to the rigid walls and grooves shown, but to illustrate any embodiment that may be adapted to be easily disassembled. A base 42 is provided having affixment points, here shown as slots 43 adapted to receive vertical frame members 44 and 45 such that the vertical frame members may be adapted to fit in the base 42. The vertical frame members 44, 45 have attachment points, here grooves 46 that are adapted to receive side wall panels 48 forming the side walls 13 of the container 10 of this embodiment. The side wall panels 48 shown here are rigid, but could also be a mesh material attachable to the vertical members 44 and 45. Corner vertical frame members 45 and optional intermediate vertical frame members 44 may be provided to support the side wall panels 48 of larger containers 10. The corner vertical frame members 45 have grooves that are oriented to receive and hold side wall panels 48 at an orientation to complete a rectangular or other shape of the container 10, here the intermediate vertical frame members 47 have grooves to hold the side wall panels 48 in the same plane. One or more of the side wall panels 48 have hand port openings 20.

The vertical frame members 44, 45 are fitted to their respective slots 43 in the base 42, shown as dotted lines in FIG. 4C, then the side wall panels 48 are fitted within the grooves 46, 47 to complete the container 10. In this manner the container 10 may be easily assembled and disassembled for transportation or storage.

FIGS. 5A though 7B show details of exemplary self-closing hand port openings 20 that may be used with the present invention. A door 22 type of hand a port opening 20 in a side wall 13 is shown in detail in FIGS. 5A and 5B; FIG. 5A shows the door in an open position and FIG. 5B shows the door in a closed position. It is preferred to that any hand port 20 be self-closing, such as with a biased spring 21 in the case of door 22, or be securable with a simple latch 24 such as a magnetic latch or a latch of hook and loop material to keep it closed, of which all components are known to those in the art. Hinges 23 of the door may be metallic or fabric straps. Although a door 22 is preferred for hand ports 20 when a container 10 is constructed as a rigid walled enclosure 14, other types of hand ports 20 as discussed herein may be used in this embodiment as well. Differing embodiments of hand ports may be used with a given container 10 as well.

In FIGS. 6A and 6B a slit opening 20, 36 comprised of a first and second sides 36A and 36B. The slit is held in the closed position of FIG. 6A by a vertical tensioning (shown by double arrow) of the surrounding mesh 30 or other fabric of the side wall 13, holding the first and second sides 36A and 36B together. A child's hand, shown as H may push apart sides 36A and 36B to reach through the slit, as shown in FIG. 6B, to grasp a toy then pull it through the slit hand port 36 to retrieve it. After the hand H grasping a toy is withdrawn through the slit opening 36 the layers 36A and 36B of the slit move together again under the tension of the fabric, closing the opening and returning the hand port to the closed position of FIG. 6A.

FIGS. 7A and 7B show an elastic hemmed embodiment of a hand port. One or more side walls 13 of a container 10 may include an opening 32 that is hemmed with an elastic material 34 such as elastic tape, such that the elastic will be tensioned by distending the opening 34. A child may reach through the hemmed opening 32 with his hand H to distend the opening, as shown in FIG. 7B, then grasp a toy and pull it through the hemmed hand port to retrieve it. After the hand H and toy are removed from the hemmed opening 32 it closes under the tension of the elastic material 34, closing the opening and returning the hand port to the closed position of FIG. 7A.

It will be appreciated that the invention has been described hereabove with reference to certain examples or preferred embodiments as shown in the drawings. Various additions, deletions, changes and alterations may be made to the above-described embodiments and examples without departing from the intended spirit and scope of this invention. Accordingly, it is intended that all such additions, deletions, changes and alterations be included within the scope of the following claims.