Title:
Play material comprising a flexible fabric envelope filled with crumpled plastic film
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An interactive development toy for infants and children is provided comprising a flexible fabric envelope filled with a crumpled plastic film to provide a three-dimensional structure to the envelope. The envelope may include a fabric mesh through which the crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted. The shape of the envelope is immaterial, although in the preferred embodiment the envelope includes at least one edge element that may be easily grasped by an infant. Also in the preferred embodiment, the crumpled plastic film comprises a thin plastic film. Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (boPET) polyester film has been found to be effective for this application due to its high tensile strength, iridescence, reflectivity, safety, springiness (memory), light weight, and crackling sound on handling. Many other plastic films also have these features, and perform comparably.



Inventors:
Chase, Richard A. (New York, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/803133
Publication Date:
11/13/2008
Filing Date:
05/11/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DENNIS, MICHAEL DAVID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Grimes, LLC. (Formerly Grimes & Battersby, LLC) (Bonita Springs, FL, US)
Claims:
Wherefor I claim:

1. An interactive development toy for infants and children comprising a flexible, easily deformable fabric envelope filled with a crumpled plastic film to provide a three-dimensional structure to said envelope, which crumpled plastic film produces an audible sound in response to deformation thereof.

2. The development toy of claim 1, wherein said envelope comprises a fabric mesh through which said crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted.

3. The development toy of claim 1, wherein said envelope comprises a transparent material through which said crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted.

4. The system of claim 2, wherein said envelope includes at least one edge element that may be easily grasped by an infant.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein said crumpled plastic film comprises a thin plastic film.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein said thin plastic film comprises biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate polyester film.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein said fabric envelope comprises a geometrically shaped object having a plurality of graspable edges.

8. An interactive development toy for infants and children comprising a flexible, easily deformable fabric envelope having at least one edge element that may be easily grasped by an infant, said envelope being filled with a crumpled plastic film to provide a three-dimensional structure to said envelope, which crumpled plastic film produces an audible sound in response to deformation thereof, wherein said envelope comprises a fabric mesh through which said crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted, and further wherein said crumpled plastic film comprises biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate polyester film.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO APPENDIX

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to play material for infants and children, and more particularly to play material comprising a flexible fabric envelope filled with a crumpled plastic film, and even more particularly to such play material having visual appeal to the infant as well as providing audible feedback in response to manipulation by the infant.

Infants and young children explore their physical environments very actively. The physical characteristics that make objects particularly interesting to infants include:

    • very low weight
    • easy graspability (mesh, loops, tags, flaps, piping)
    • easy deformability (flexible fabrics, and thin plastic films)
    • automatic restoration to original form after handling
    • sound consequences from handling
    • light-reflecting and light scattering properties
    • high-contrast visual edges
    • high tensile strength
    • no pain or injury on impact, even when falling on the object

Manipulating these variables allows for the optimization of performance of interactive early-childhood toys for different uses. For example, a mesh block will use thin sheets of film, gently crumpled to create large air pockets, thereby reducing weight of the object, and increasing the ease with which a filled block can be grasped, waved, and squeezed by a very young infant. Alternatively, an opaque woven fabric ball stuffed more densely with a thicker plastic film will perform better for kicking and throwing by a toddler.

B. Description of the Prior Art

Infant development toys have long been known. Rattles of various kinds span prior centuries. Objects for infants made of hard plastics are often heavier and harder to manipulate than they should be. Fabric objects have often worked better, including provision of varying colors and textures. Sound-making devices are often embedded. More recently, electronics have been used to create infant toys that deliver complex displays of sounds and lights.

It is also known in the prior art to use various types of materials to create an audible sound, including crumpled plastic film. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 3,690,324, which issued to Spivack on Sep. 12, 1972 for “Baby's Pacifier” discloses a baby's pacifier exercise or teething device having a tube of resilient flexible material formed in a ring with intertwined loops filled with bunched or crumpled sheet plastic to generate an audible crackling sound when twisted.

As will be appreciated, none of these prior patents even address the problem faced by applicant let alone offer the solutions proposed herein

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Against the foregoing background, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide an interactive child development toy that provides both visual and audible feedback to manipulation by an infant or child.

It is another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that is lightweight and easy for an infant to grab, squeeze, lift and move.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that provides sound consequences to manipulation by an infant or child.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that includes graspable edges, including flaps and piping with high-contrast visual features, that define the spatial boundaries of said toy and are readily perceived and identified in three-dimensional space by an infant or child.

It is another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that includes a plurality of reflective surfaces to variably reflect light and attract the attention of an infant or child.

It is another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that reconstitutes itself after it has been compressed so as to return to its original shape.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide such an interactive child development toy that is easily deformable by an infant or child.

It is another object of the present invention to provide such a play object that may be readily compressed for easy transportation and storage.

To the accomplishments of the foregoing objects and advantages, the present invention, in brief summary, comprises a flexible cloth envelope which is filled with a crumpled plastic film to provide a three-dimensional structure to the envelope. The envelope may include a fabric mesh through which the crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted. The shape of the envelope is immaterial, although with certain shapes the envelope may include edge elements (flaps or piping along outside seams) that may be easily grasped by an infant. Also in the preferred embodiment, the crumpled material comprises a thin plastic film. Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (boPET) polyester film, and many other plastic films, have been found to be effective for this application due to their light weight, high tensile strength, iridescence, graspability, deformability, springiness (memory), crackling sound on handling, and safety on impact.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and still other objects and advantages of the present invention will be more apparent from the detailed explanation of the preferred embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the early childhood development toy of the present invention; and

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the component parts of the early childhood development toy of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings and, in particular, to FIG. 1 thereof, the interactive development toy of the present invention is provided and is referred to generally by reference numeral 10. The toy 10 includes a flexible fabric (woven or non-woven) envelope 12 defining a cavity 14 within which may be inserted a quantity of crumpled plastic film 16 to thereby provide a three-dimensional structure to the envelope 12. The fabric envelope may include a non-toxic fabric mesh 18 through which the crumpled plastic film may by easily viewed when inserted. It has been observed that infants are particularly drawn to reflective surfaces, in which event the ideal material to be used for the envelope 12 includes holes through which the crumpled plastic film 16 may be viewed as occurs when mesh is used. Furthermore, as the crackling sound created by the crumpled plastic film 16 is critical to provide feedback and reinforcement to the infant, the material composition of the flexible envelope 12 should be such as to allow the transmission of sound.

The shape of the fabric envelope 12 is immaterial, although with certain shapes the envelope 12 may include at least one edge element 20 that may be easily grasped by an infant. Geometric shapes, such as balls and blocks, are easy to manufacture and appealing to infants, while also providing seams for attaching a plurality of edge elements 20 so that the infant may grasp the toy 10 at various locations. The easy graspability feature is enhanced by use of fabric flaps and rolled fabric piping along outside seams. The toy 10 may incorporate brightly colored fabrics and brightly printed fabrics to further attract the attention of a child.

Envelopes 12 may be woven or non-woven, and shaped as spheres, cubes, or any other three-dimensional form, and to any final volume. The light reflecting and light scattering properties of the plastic film 16 require the use of mesh fabrics. Some other uses require the use of opaque fabric which results in the toy not including the light reflecting and light scattering feature.

In the preferred embodiment, the crumpled plastic film 16 comprises a thin plastic film of a sufficient thickness as to be relatively durable and to prevent tearing while still providing an audible crackling sound when crumpled. Also ideally, the crumpled plastic film 16 should either include reflective surfaces or have an iridescent surface, as the reflected light and iridescence are appealing to infants. Of course, for toys 10 intended for infants, the crumpled plastic film 16 should be non-toxic and safe for children and infants, as well as light-weight so that an infant may easily pick up and manipulate the toy 10. A sufficient quantity of the crumpled plastic film 16 should be used so as to provide sufficient support for the structure to the flexible envelope 12, but not so much as to overstuff the enveloped 12, making manipulation or deformation by an infant difficult or frustrating. Finally, since the crumpled plastic film 16 provides structure to the interactive development toy 10, it should have memory that allows it to revert to its previous shape after pressure has been applied.

The method by which the plastic film 16 is crumpled may be variable, and include such methods as crumpling, twisting, creasing, bunching, curling, scoring, slicing, bending, knotting, or bowing. Furthermore, varying certain physical and chemical features of plastic films during the manufacturing process will produce differences in how the films behave. These differences include deformability, springiness (memory), sounds produced by handling, optical reflectivity and color.

For example, when preparing a fabric ball for use by an older child in active sports play, a thicker plastic film would be used, crumpled so as to decrease the size of air pockets and increase the density of plastic film, combined with using an opaque spherical fabric envelope, either alone, or with alternating sections of mesh, as such treatment increases the accuracy of the ball's movements through space.

Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (boPET) polyester film has been found to be effective for this application. However, any number of other plastic films may be used as long as they demonstrate most of the qualities required by the interactive development toy 10 of the present invention, including: high tensile strength, iridescence or reflectivity, safety, memory (springiness), light weight, crackling sound on handling.

Reference will now be made to the alternative embodiments of the present invention. In addition to the particular application discussed above, the toy 10 of the present invention has many other applications. In fact, the toy 10 may be used in any situation in which a light-weight object having a particular structure and occupying a particular volume is required. For example, the light-weight toy 10 would be an ideal shipping material, as it is light-weight, deformable so as to fit into a particular area and to act as a cushion for the item protected thereby, non-toxic so food items can be shipped, and, most importantly, inexpensive to manufacture. It may even be reused.

Applications in Medicine would include mats, and hand-held objects for use by patients requiring rehabilitation for motor function disorders.

Having thus described the invention with particular reference to the preferred forms thereof, it will be obvious that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.