FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to children's play construction kits. In particular, the present invention relates to play kits having loose connectable and/or interchangeable parts.
The concept of free play is one where children play in a manner that allows them to imagine and invent how they play, thereby enabling healthy childhood development. Free play is innate in children as their imaginations are limitless. Children express their imaginations through play either on a playground or at home using playthings. Play is a key childhood activity in which children can let their imaginations go. Traditionally play on playgrounds involved children using design-directed equipment, including slides, seesaws, monkey bars, etc., whose rigidly defined, or “prestructured,” forms and functions limit children's possibilities for play and as such stifle children's imaginations. Today's playgrounds have merged individual equipment into a large playground combination device affixed with slides, monkey bars, climbing areas, bridges, tunnels, etc. These playgrounds are no better than traditional playgrounds of the past, as they still utilize old pre-structured, prescribed equipment that have limited function. Few of the playgrounds to date allow children to express their full creative potential or play freely.
Children's imaginations are also stifled by the current state of toys. Toys such as building sets have been touted to allow a child to be creative, however these sets only constrain a child's imagination. Exemplary toy building sets include TinkerToys, Erector and LEGO® sets, which all heavily curtail play as they are pre-structured toys. A child uses these sets to construct objects of limited scope. Also, these sets use small, inflexible parts with prescribed functions that are limited for use by children of certain ages. To further limit imagination, many of these sets include collective sets that make only one object.
The current way of playing using pre-structured equipment and toys contributes to today's problems with childhood obesity and also to poor social skills, motor skills and school performance in children. Since much of a child's life is structured, playgrounds and play things should not be. Children have a natural tendency to play, which done freely, advances proper childhood development. Parents, educators and childhood development experts today are advocating free play to counterbalance today's structured world. Children that play freely develop better socially, physically and intellectually. These skills translate into better performance in school and ultimately results in better-performing adults.
- BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
To foster a child's imagination, play items are needed that are not bound by contemporary pre-structured designs. Play items need to enable imagination and allow children to play freely rather than stifle imagination. For instance, it would be ideal to have large, loose play item parts that are firm but soft and interchangeable as well as interconnectable. Such free play items should be suitable for children of all ages. Accordingly, young children would use the items to learn the sense of touch and feel while older children would use them to learn math, geometry, spatial depth, etc. It would also be advantageous to have play items that foster group cooperation. Thus, by using play items with loose, inter-connectable and interchangeable parts, children work together to manipulate their play environment and create an exponential number of objects, devices, structures giving life to the mundane.
The present invention relates to a play construction kit conducive to free play. The kit comprises a storage box and a number of supportable, connectable and/or interchangeable modules and connector parts. The box is used to organize and store the modules and connectors and can also serve as a travel case. The modules have various shapes and sizes and the connector parts resemble water noodles, the popular light and flexible, tube shaped pool toys made of polyethylene foam. Children may use the modules alone or with the connector parts. The modules may take any shape being geometric, curved, organic and biomorphic forms. The modules also range in sizes. Large modules may be used on the playground or in backyards and require children, and at times adults, to use two hands to carry or move the modules. Small modules are suitable for play either indoors or outdoors.
The kit uses two types of modules, which are primary modules and secondary modules. The primary modules may have at least one full aperture, at least one half-aperture, or both. The primary modules with full aperture may have one or more passageways, conduits or through-apertures disposed therein having any size and orientation. The primary modules with half aperture will have at least one passageway, conduit or half aperture disposed on one side of the primary module. The secondary module serves to support or work with the primary module and the connector parts. The connector parts are flexible and have a diameter and length similar to typical water noodles. A child may readily manipulate the connector part through a full-aperture and/or a half aperture. A child may also readily manipulate the connector part through multiple primary modules.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The modules and connector parts may be used indoors or outdoors, at home or in school. The modules and connector parts may even be used at the beach on the sand or in the water. Modules and connector parts may be configured into any arrangement and are only limited by one's imagination. For instance, one can use the modules and/or connector parts to construct forts, castles, animals, objects such as barbells, or a plethora of undefined structures or objects, etc. The connector parts may fit in a full -aperture or half aperture of said primary module with or without friction.
FIG. 1A is an environmental perspective view of modules in the play construction kit according to the present invention.
FIG. 1B is an environmental perspective view of a storage box in the play construction kit according to the present invention.
FIG. 2A shows the storage box according to the present invention in a closed position.
FIG. 2B shows the storage box of FIG. 2A with one door open.
FIG. 2C shows the storage box of FIG. 2A with both doors open.
FIG. 2D shows the rear view of the storage box as shown in FIG. 2C.
FIG. 3 shows primary modules of the present invention having at least one full aperture.
FIG. 4 shows primary modules of the present invention having at least one half aperture.
FIG. 5 shows secondary modules of the present invention.
FIG. 6 shows one of said secondary modules from the group shown in FIG. 5.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 7 shows connector parts of the present invention.
FIGS. 1A and 1B show an environmental view of a play construction kit 10 including storage box 100 according to the present invention. The kit 10 comprises the storage box 100, modules 200, 300 and 400 and connector parts 500. FIGS. 1A and 1B show the kit 10 and storage box 100 in a large-scale embodiment, however, it should be noted that the kit 10 and storage box 100 need not be limited in size and may be manufactured in a small-scale embodiment.
FIGS. 2A-2D show another embodiment of box 100 which can be used to hold, organize and store the modules 200, 300 and 400 and connectors 500. The box 100 comprises two doors 102, 104 and a central body 106 disposed between and connecting the doors 102, 104. Connectors 112, such as and not limited to hinges, may be used to attach each door 102, 104 to the body 106 and handles 108 may be disposed on the doors 102, 104 to facilitate opening and closing the doors. Each the doors 102, 104 and body 106 have dimension and depth sufficient to retain the modules 200, 300 and 400 and connectors 500. Shelves 114 and bars or dividers 116 may be disposed within each the doors 102, 104 and body 106 to organize and store the modules and connectors. The box 100 may be made to have a combination of shelves and dividers or, as shown in FIG. 1B, may be constructed only having shelves 114.
Each the doors 102, 104 and body 106 has two side walls connected by a top piece, a bottom piece and a back wall forming independent open-faced, cabinet-like storage closets. The connectors 112 are disposed on front edges of the two side walls of the body 106 and on exterior, corner back edge of each the doors 102, 104. The connectors 112 may be two-part connectors such as mating hinges, wherein one connector piece is disposed on the body 106 and it's mate is disposed on the door 102 and 104. The connectors 112 and rollers 110 permit the doors 102, 104 to swing open and closed, see FIGS. 2A and 2B.
The connectors 112 permit the doors 102, 104 to be movably and matingly connected to the body 106. In a closed position, the doors 102, 104 on the box 100 abut and seal closed the open-faced cabinet of the body 106. Specifically, a side wall on each the first door 102 conceals half the open-faced cabinet of the body 106 and the second door 104 conceals the other half of face of the body 106. See FIG. 2B. Also in this closed position, the open-faces of each the door 102 and 104 abut each other concealing the contents of everything within the box and preventing items within the body 106 or doors 102, 104 from falling out.
The box 100 may be made of any material such as metal, wood, plastics, etc. The bottom pieces and any shelves 114 of each the doors 102, 104 and body 106 may be vented or be made to have a latticed design to drain water that could be found on wet modules 200, 300 and 400 and connectors 500. Rollers 110 may be disposed at the bottom of the box 100 to facilitate opening and closing the doors 102, 104 and overall transportation of the box 100 to various locations. FIGS. 2A-2D show the box 100 designed to hold large-scale modules 200, 300 and 400 and connectors 500, but should not be limited in size and can be scaled down to hold the invention when made in a small scale embodiment.
Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, the modules 200, 300 and 400 of the present invention comprises primary modules 200, 300 and secondary modules 400. The primary modules 200, 300 have at least one aperture being a full aperture or a half aperture. Primary full aperture modules include 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270 and 280 and secondary full aperture modules include 310, 320, 330, 340 and 350. The secondary modules 400 may be used as supporting pieces and include 410, 420, 430, 440, 450, 460, 470 and 480. Both the primary and secondary modules have varying sizes and shapes that will be described below.
The connector parts 500, see FIG. 7, are flexible longitudinal members that range in widths and lengths. Connector 510 has a larger diameter than connector 520 and connector 520 has a larger diameter than connector 530. The outer surface of each connector may possess designs. Connector 550 has projections, while connector 540 has beveled surfaces. The connectors 500 are designed to be used with the modules 200, 300 and 400. For instance, as shown in FIG. 1A, the connector parts 500 may be disposed thorough a full aperture of the primary modules 200, 300 having at least one full aperture 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270 and 280 or the primary modules having at least one half aperture 310, 320, 330, 340 and 350. Both the modules 200, 300 and 400 and the connector parts 500 of the kit 10 are solid, firm and soft to reduce danger or harm to children during free play.
The full-aperture primary modules 200 include a rectangle block with holes 260, a long block with holes 270, a square block with holes 280, a cheese 240, a wheel 230, a clover gear 210, a plus gear 220 and a hinge 250. The half-aperture primary modules include an arch block 310, an arch chute 330, a channel straight 320, a channel bend 340 and a chute 350. Chute 350 also fits under the category of full-aperture primary modules 200 as it has a full aperture 32.
The primary modules 200, 300 generally have at least one aperture being a full aperture 30, 32 or a half-aperture 34, 36. The full aperture 30, 32 or half-aperture 34 may have an aperture diameter that is less than about 10 inches and ranges in size from 1 inch to 8 inches being either a small aperture or a large aperture. Generally, the diameter of small aperture 30 ranges from about 1 inch to about 4 inches, specifically from about 1½ inches to about 3½ inches, more specifically from about 2 inches to about 2¾ inches. In some cases, the diameter of small aperture 30 is about 2⅝ inches. The diameter of large aperture 32 generally ranges from about 4½ inches to about 8 inches, specifically from about 5 inches to about 7½ inches, more specifically from about 5½ inches to about 7 inches. In some cases, the diameter of large aperture 32 is about 6⅛ inches. The diameter of small half-aperture 34 is comparable in size to large aperture 32. Large half-aperture 36 may have a diameter that is larger than 12 inches and is generally about of 24 inches, see module 310.
Each the full aperture 30, 32 and the half aperture 34, 36 define a passageway having and connecting a first opening to a second opening. The apertures 30, 32, 34 are dimensioned and configured to receive an end of the connector part 500 having a corresponding size. Said connector part 500 may be disposed through the apertures 30, 32, 34 either with or without friction. If desired, the connector parts 500 may be used to connect multiple full-aperture primary modules 200 by pulling the full aperture primary modules 200 along the length of the connector part 500. For example, looking at FIG. 1A, the connector part 530 is press-fit through a small aperture 30 of the wheel module 230 and pulled through the passageway and out the second opening. The full-aperture primary modules 200 may have any combination of small apertures 30 or large apertures 32. Generally, each full-aperture primary modules 200 may have at least one aperture being a small aperture 30, with the exception for chute 350 that has one large aperture. Each half aperture 34 may have a similar diameter to the large aperture 32 and thus allow large diameter connectors 510 to fit within the aperture 34, see connector 510 and module 330 in FIG. 1A.
The secondary modules 400 include a primary block 460, a semi-circle 410, a trapezoid 440, a peak 430, a plug 450, a nickel 470, a sprinkler 480 and a quarter round 420. The secondary modules 400 do not have apertures 30, 32, or 36. The secondary modules 400 do not receive the connector parts 500. Instead, secondary modules 400 may be used to support or work with the primary modules 200, 300 and/or the connector parts 500. For instance, sprinkler 480 is designed to work with primary modules 200, 300 and has a diameter that is dimensioned and configured to fit in the aperture diameter of a full aperture 30, 32 or a half-aperture 34 of the primary modules 200, 300 with or without friction. The diameter of sprinkler 480 is less than about 1 inch to less than about 4 inches, specifically from less than about 1½ inches to less than about 3½ inches, more specifically from less than about 2 inches to less than about 2¾ inches.
Looking now to FIG. 6, sprinkler 480 is shown being bent in shape having a connector end 482 with a hose coupling opening 483, a bent portion 485, a longitudinal portion 484, a U-shaped portion 486 and a cap end 488. The hose coupling opening 483 is designed to receive a water hose such as a common garden watering hose. Bent portion 485, longitudinal portion 484 and U-shaped portion 486 are scored with a plurality of notches 481 that are disposed at random intervals on said sprinkler 480 allowing water from the garden hose to spray out at a variety of angles. As mentioned above, the modules 400 are solid, firm and soft to reduce danger. Sprinkler 480 may be made of polypropylene or any suitable material such as soft plastic or flexible yet hard plastic or similar material. The number of modules 200, 300, 400 can vary in the kit 10 and are not meant to be limiting.
Both primary modules 200, 300 and secondary modules 400 have a size and shape. The size of the modules 200, 300, 400 varies generally in increments. In large scale embodiment of the kit 10, the modules vary in 6-inch increments and range in size from about 6 inches to about 5 feet, specifically about 1 foot to about 4 feet, more specifically from about 2 feet to about 3 feet. Generally, the modules 200, 300, 400 are child-sized where the blocks are of a sufficient size where a child, and sometimes even an adult, would be required to use two hands to grasp or hold one module 200, 300, 400. In a small-scale embodiment, the modules 200, 300, 400 would be scaled down for use indoors on the floor of a room or on the desktop.
The shape of the modules 200, 300, 400 can be either geometric or organic. Geometric shaped modules have generally angular lines, while organic or biomorphic shaped modules are rounded or curved and resemble things found in nature. Some modules may be part geometric and part organic or biomorphic. The secondary modules may have classic shapes such as geometric shapes including rectangles, circles, semi-circles, quarter-circles, trapezoids, triangles and cylinders.
The connector parts 500 are flexible foam members having a diameter and a length similar to water noodles. Both the connector diameter and the length may vary. The connector diameter may range from about 2 inches to about 6 inches. Generally, the connector diameter of said connector part 500 is dimensioned and configured to fit in the aperture diameter of a full aperture 30, 32 or a half-aperture 34 of the primary modules 200, 300 with or without friction.
The play construction kit 10 with storage box 100 permits a child to manipulate their environment with modules 200, 300, 400 using their imagination. The kit 10 with storage box 100 is conducive to free play where children are not restricted by adult-directed objects or directions. Children may work as individuals, but are more likely to work in groups to manipulate the modules 200, 300, 400 and connector parts 500 of the kit 10. As a result of using the kit 10 with storage box 100, children become more active, learn to play together and develop better emotionally, socially and intellectually. The kit 10 may be used to make any edifice or object. For instance, FIG. 1 shows a child creating a barbell using two wheel modules 230 and a connector 530 that is disposed through the centermost small aperture 30 of each module 230. Other objects can be created and are only limited by the user's creativity.