Title:
Magnetic valance for hanging toys from infant carriers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is a magnetic valance for attachment to baby carriers, strollers, infant car seats and other baby travel systems, to which an array of toys can be easily secured for the baby's enjoyment and stimulation. The valance comprises a fabric panel having an array of magnets sewn directly into the margins of the material allowing the margins to attract one another magnetically and grasp any object about which it is wrapped, and an array of tie-straps for supporting the attachable toys. The valance can be wrapped around the sunshade of infant carriers, and strollers, and attached onto itself via the internal magnets, with the tie-straps exposed in front of the baby for attaching infant toys.



Inventors:
Mulrine, Karla (Columbia, PA, US)
Mulrine, Michael R. (Columbia, PA, US)
Application Number:
12/079071
Publication Date:
10/09/2008
Filing Date:
03/24/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H33/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Royal W. Craig (Baltimore, MD, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A portable infant toy hanging valance, comprising: a flexible rectangular sheet including having a pair of long edges and a pair of short edges; a plurality of a magnets periodically spaced along and fixedly attached lengthwise along both long edges of the sheet for securing said sheet around an elongate strut by magnetic attraction; and a plurality of ribbon loops periodically spaced along and fixedly attached lengthwise along both long edges of the sheet for providing points of attachment for infant toys

2. The valance of claim 1 wherein said sheet is a woven cloth.

3. The valance of claim 1 wherein said sheet is a nonwoven plastic membrane.

4. The valance of claim 1 wherein said ribbon loops are affixed along a centerline of said sheet.

5. The valance of claim 1 wherein each ribbon loop further comprises a pair of tie straps bearing complimentary strips of hook and loop fastener.

6. The valance of claim 1 wherein said magnets are fixedly attached to said rectangular sheet by adhesive.

7. The valance of claim 1 wherein said magnets are fixedly attached to said rectangular sheet by stitching.

8. The valance of claim 1 further comprising pockets sewn into said sheet along the opposing edges into which said magnets are sewn.

9. The valance of claim 1 wherein said sheet is comprised of multiple layers of fabric.

10. The valance of claim 9 wherein said multiple layers of fabric are sewn together by stitching at their periphery.

11. A portable infant toy hanging valance, comprising: a flexible rectangular sheet; and a plurality of a magnets periodically spaced along and fixedly attached to each of two opposing edges of said sheet; such that said opposing edges of said sheet are affixed together by magnetic attraction when the sheet is folded about the midline between said opposing edges thereby securing said valance to an object about which it is folded; and a ribbon loop fixedly connected to said sheet providing a point of attachment for said infant toy.

12. The valance of claim 11 wherein said sheet is a woven cloth.

13. The valance of claim 12 wherein said sheet is a nonwoven plastic membrane.

14. The valance of claim 13 wherein said ribbon loops are affixed along a centerline of said sheet.

15. The valance of claim 14 wherein each said ribbon loop is further comprised of complimentary strips of hook and loop fastener.

16. The valance of claim 11 wherein said magnets are fixedly attached to said sheet by adhesive.

17. The valance of claim 11 wherein said magnets are fixedly attached to said sheet by stitching.

18. The valance of claim 17 wherein said valance further comprises pockets sewn into said sheet along said opposing edges for containing said magnets.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application derives priority from provisional patent application No. 60/919,669 filed Mar. 23, 2007.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to infant carrier/stroller/travel seat accessories and, more particularly, to a portable fabric toy hanger or “valance” that attaches by magnets to the sunshade of infant carriers and strollers, to provide an easily adjustable hanger for attaching infant toys.

2. Description of the Background

Baby carriages have been in use since Victorian times and have only become more popular as society has become more mobile. Modern strollers are more compact, lightweight and easier to use such that parents rarely travel with a child without a stroller as well. Increased mobility has also meant more time spent by small children in cars, and hence more recognition of the specific risks to children involved in automobile accidents. As a result, child safety seats were developed in the 1970's to protect children involved in such accidents and are now required by law in the United States and many other nations. Today's child car seats for infants up to 22 lbs often take the form a molded, padded shell contoured to support the child with an adjustable handle that can be raised for easy carrying and lowered while in the vehicle or to lift the baby in or out. Such car seats are sometimes referred to as baby carriers as many parents took to carrying their infant around in the seat even when not travelling by car. Such seats are often paired by manufacturers with a stroller to create a travel system such that infants spend considerable amounts of time in their stroller, car seat or carrier.

One drawback of the safety minded designs of strollers, car seats and carriers is that there is little to stimulate or entertain babies while in the seat. Babies of an age to be in such seats lack developed depth perception and ability to focus. Consequently, they cannot generally focus on passing people or objects outside the seat while being pushed or carried. Instead they look to their immediate surroundings which, given the state of their visual development, is in most cases limited to the carrier itself. As most carriers are bland, babies are often un-stimulated and bored. Some parents attempt to entertain children in their carrier by placing a toy in the child's lap. Given the semi-reclined position of most carriers, many children don't know to look down and see the toy or fail to notice it. Even those that do notice the toy generally lack the motor skills and hand-eye coordination “play” with it.

A better solution is to suspend a stimulating toy above and in front of the baby. Suspending a toy above and in front of a baby in a semi reclined position places the toy directly in the child's line of vision and allows the child to “play” with the toy by batting at it or to simply observe the toy as it swings or sways with the movement of the seat. Such toys can also not be dropped or lost and can be reengaged by the baby again and again as his or her interest comes and goes. The use of infant stroller, car seat or carrier seat attachment devices is known in the prior art. For example, known prior art accessories for permabulators or strollers include U.S. Pat. No. 7,052,085; U.S. Pat. No. 7,040,694; U.S. Pat. No. 6,695,400; U.S. Pat. No. 6,698,841; U.S. Pat. No. 6,695,400; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,153.

Unfortunately, while the devices disclosed in these patents fulfill their respective, particular objectives and requirements, they do not present a solution that can universally fit all sizes and variations of baby carriers, car seats and strollers. There remains a need for an infant toy hanger constructed of a durable and flexible material that adjustably positions an array of toys in front of a child seated in such a carrier. Such a device should be inexpensive, lightweight, durable, flexible, washable, and portable and must effectively attach to a variety of potential designs while simultaneously accepting a variety of toy sizes effectively.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is, therefore, the primary object of the present invention to provide a magnetically-attachable valance for hanging toys from the sunshade of most any infant carrier, stroller, car seat or the like, that includes an attachment array for attaching toys to the valance for the infant.

It is another objective of this invention to entertain and stimulate an infant by suspending toy objects in close visual proximity during transport in an infant carrier, car seat or stroller with a visor.

It is still yet another objective of this invention to allow a parent to quickly and easily change the toys attached to the valance in order to continually stimulate an infant visually and physically and thus prevent unwanted behaviors and encourage mental growth during transport in an infant carrier, car seat or stroller with a visor.

It is still yet another objective of this invention to allow the fabric to be quickly and easily removed from the car seat or stroller visor to be used with an infant in an alternate setting, such as on the floor during play time or to be cleaned.

It is still yet another objective of this invention to prevent toys from falling onto the ground thereby becoming unsanitary for baby's play as babies are inclined to place such objects in their mouth.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a valance for hanging toys that wraps around the sunshade of most any size or configuration of infant carriers, strollers and the like and which attaches to itself.

It is still another object to provide a toy-hanging device as described above that is inexpensive, durable, lightweight, flexible, compact, washable, and portable.

It is still another object to provide a mounting solution for infant travel seats that is capable of detaching without disturbing a sleeping baby.

According to the present invention, the above described and other objects are accomplished with a magnetically-attachable valance for hanging toys from the sunshade of infant carriers, strollers and the like, which includes a magnetic self-clamping system to securely affix the valance to a variety of sunshade designs. Adjustable ribbon loops are sewn or otherwise attached to the valance to adjustably position an array of toys in front of the child for their amusement. The valance is constructed of a highly colorful and durable cloth or other flexible material. The entire device is easy to attach and remove, is durable, flexible, and lightweight, and provides enjoyment for infants and ease-of-use and convenience for parents.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and certain modifications thereof when taken together with the accompanying drawings in which like numbers represent like items and in which:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the infant toy hanging valance employed on the sunshade of an infant car seat.

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the infant toy hanging-valance employed on the sunshade of an infant stroller.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the infant toy hanging valance opened and laid flat.

FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of the infant toy hanging valance.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the device used in conjunction with a conventional infant car seat and sunshade.

FIG. 6 is a partial section view through the present invention used in conjunction with a conventional infant car seat sunshade.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention is a fabric toy hanger or “valance” that attaches to itself by magnets around the sunshade of an infant carrier or stroller to provide an easily adjustable point of connection for suspending a variety of infant toys in front of a baby in the carrier or stroller. A term valance generally refers to an ornamental drapery hung across a top edge of something such as a table, canopy or window. The term is used herein to refer to the present invention although it is actually the child's toys which are “hung” from the valance itself, which is affirmatively attached to the edge of a infant carrier sunshade in order to provide a point of connection from which to suspend the toy or toys.

Referring now to FIG. 4, the toy hanging valance 10 in accordance with the present invention comprises a rectangular fabric panel 14 of one or more layers of fabric having a series of magnets 16 periodically spaced and attached thereto along each of two opposing edges. In the preferred embodiment, fabric panel 14 is comprised of two layers of fabric stitched together at its periphery with magnets 16 integrally sewn to fabric panel 14 between the layers thereby concealing them from the view of infants and small children.

Magnets 16, spaced along the opposing edges of fabric panel 14, are arranged in pairs with one magnet 16 of each pair installed on each opposing edge such that the magnets 16 align and attract each other when the panel 14 is folded about the midline between the opposing edges.

Ribbon loops 12 are stitched to fabric panel 14 to provide one or more points of attachment for infant toys to be suspended before the child. In the preferred embodiment, ribbon loops 12 are stitched to fabric panel 14 along its midline between the opposing sides so that the loops are located on the outside edge of the valance when the valance is folded. In an alternate embodiment, complimentary strips of hook and loop fastener are stitched to fabric panel 14 such that they can be fastened together to form loops 12.

Referring now to FIG. 1, the valance 10 of the present invention is illustrated as used in conjunction with a conventional infant car seat 2. The car seat 2 includes a reclining bucket for the baby, an adjustable carry handle 4, here shown in the stowed position, and a sunshade 5 that arches upward overtop of the baby, here shown in the deployed position. Fabric panel 14 of toy-hanging valance 10 is folded over about its midline and wrapped over and around the leading edge of sunshade 5 of carrier 2. Internal magnets 16 (here obscured) on opposing edges of the valance maintain the fabric panel 14 in the wrapped position through magnetic attraction to each other. The attraction of magnets 16 operates through the fabric material of the sunshade 5.

The foregoing valance 10 can be easily attached to itself by the internal magnets around the sunshade 5 of most any infant carrier, or stroller, and provides an easy way of attaching favorite toys in front of the baby. In an alternate installation, the valence ten can be wrapped around and attached to the carry handle 4 of a conventional child's car seat or carrier or any other similarly shaped object in the child's line of vision, such as a crib rail or door handle.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the infant magnetic toy-hanging valance 10 deployed on a conventional stroller 3. The stroller 3 includes a pivoting sunshade 5 that arches upward overtop baby similar to that of the car seat. The fabric toy-hanging valance 10 attaches to the sunshade 5 by wrapping around and the internal magnets (here obscured) maintaining the fabric panel 14 in the wrapped position. The array of ribbon tie-straps 12 can be used to secure an array of toys (as seen) in front of the child for their amusement.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the toy hanging valance 10 of the present invention suspending child's toy 18 from ribbon loop 12. Fabric panel 14 is wrapped over the leading edge of and connected to the car seat sunshade 5. FIG. 6 is a partial section view of the toy hanging valance 10 installed as illustrated in FIG. 5. Fabric panel 14 has been folded over the leading edge of sunshade 5 of which support ribs 6 and sunshade fabric 7 are visible. Magnets 16 on either side of the folded fabric panel 4 align and magnetically attract each other maintaining valance 10 in the wrapped position and secured to the leading edge of sunshade shade 5. Fabric loops 12 attached to the outside of panel 14 at the midline are this positioned at the leading edge of sunshade 5 when the valence 10 is in the installed, wrapped state and are thus ideally position to suspend a child's toy directly in the child's line of vision. In the illustrated embodiment, magnets 16 are sewn into pockets stitched into the two layers of fabric panel 14.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the infant magnetic toy-hanging valance 10 in the open position laid flat. The outside surface (as determined when the device is in use) of fabric panel 14 is illustrated with ribbon hanging loops 12 visible. FIG. 4 is a schematic view of toy-hanging valance 10, which is preferably formed from a single piece of cut fabric of approximately 12″×16″ dimensions folded lengthwise and sewn together into a double-layer panel of approximately 5.5″×15″ dimensions. The position of circular magnets 16 is illustrated in the schematic view of FIG. 4. Magnets 16 are sewn or otherwise affixed periodically along the length of two opposing edges. In the preferred embodiment the magnets 16 are place along each of the long edges of the rectangular fabric panel 14. The magnets 16 are evenly spaced around the margins of the panel 14 and can be secured therein by sewing through the two layers of fabric to form restraining pockets.

FIG. 4 illustrates the use of 10 peripheral magnets 16 (5 per edge) to secure the fabric panel 14 to itself when wrapped about the object to which it is to be attached. The number of magnets 16 needed to secure the valence will vary with the size of fabric panel 14. Ten magnets 16 is observed to be the optimum number for fabric panel 14 sized in accordance with the preferred embodiment. Again, each fabric panel 14 is provided with an array of ribbon tie-straps 12 positioned across the face of the fabric panel 14. The tie-straps 12 may each comprise a simple ribbon section secured at one end to the fabric panel 14 and by which toys can be attached. One skilled in the art will readily understand that other tie-straps are possible such as loops, VELCRO™ hook and loop attachments, etc. All are considered to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 3 the panel 14 is folded with flaps meeting at the center, and the hanging loops 12 are sewn into the seam to make them more durable.

In all such cases it should now be apparent that the above-described valance 10 can be easily attached to itself by the internal magnets around the sunshade 5 or other supporting structure of most any infant carrier, car seat or stroller, and provides an easily adjustable way of attaching favorite toys in front of the baby. The entire device is easy to attach and remove, is durable, flexible, and lightweight. It provides entertainment and stimulation for infants and convenience for parents. Moreover, the components are simple to assemble, inexpensive to manufacture and sell, and thereby provide for widespread use and benefit.

Having now fully set forth the preferred embodiment and certain modifications of the concept underlying the present invention, various other embodiments herein shown and described will obviously occur to those skilled in the art upon becoming familiar with said underlying concept. It is to be understood, therefore, that the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically set forth in the appended claims.