- FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This is a non-provisional application of provisional patent application No. 61/439,634 filed on Feb. 4, 2011, and priority is claimed thereto.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention concerns child toys. More particularly, the present invention is directed at a soft puzzle that is a child's play mat.
For many children, there is a fascination with puzzles. Whether 100 pieces or only five pieces, puzzles are a unique way for child to learn the relationship between shapes. For very young children, puzzles typically are pieces that fit into a frame. For example, a frame might have cutout spaces, and each cutout piece has a little handle on the cutout piece so that children can easily place each cutout piece into the cutout spaces—matching the properly shaped cutout piece to the properly shaped cutout space. It is common to see puzzles of this sort where each cutout piece is a farm animal, and farm pictorials decorate the puzzle frame around the cutout spaces.
As children get older, puzzles increase in difficulty. For example, puzzles can have more pieces, and the pieces themselves can be very similarly shaped to make putting a puzzle together all the more difficult. Puzzle pieces can even be similarly colored, so it is difficult for the child to discern merely by color which puzzle piece belongs where in the puzzle.
An interesting observation regarding puzzles, is that as children get older, the only real way to make puzzles more interesting is to increase the coloration and pieces of the puzzle. However, there is a need to make a puzzle more integrated with a child's life than merely being a puzzle. For example, a puzzle should not just be something that is kept in a box, and taken out to assemble. But rather, it is desirable to have a puzzle that would have more of a function than merely sitting on top of the table assembled. Similarly, for most children, once a puzzle has been put together, the puzzle will remain in view for several days—but soon, the puzzle will be put back into the box and rarely touched again. There is a need to allow the puzzle to be more than just something that remains untouched once it has been put together. In short, there is a need for a multifunctional puzzle.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is important to keep perspective on how a child plays as well. Unlike adults, children tend to sit on the floor and play a lot. If a room has carpeting, then children will most likely be rather comfortable sitting on the soft carpeting. However, in today's home, hard floors are rather common. So for children, is desirable to have a soft surface on which to play, as opposed to sitting on a hard cold floor. Children are rather tactile, as they enjoy soft furry dolls and playthings. Commonly, if the child does not want to sit on the floor, then a soft rug would be laid out by a parent. It is rare to see a child think before playing and take out a rug or play mat before placing down toys. So unless a parent is actually in a room, then the child will most likely sit on the cold floor. Thus, there is a need for a toy that will encourage a child to put out a rug or play mat. Moreover, there is a need for a rug or play mat that actually is the toy.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention is a soft play mat that is more than just a rug. A child uses the present invention by first assembling its puzzle-like pieces. In other words, a child sees the present invention in a disassembled state initially. The child needs to identify the proper pieces that connect to the other pieces of the present invention. The child identifies similar colors on similar pieces to form matching pieces. In addition, the present invention forms the shape of an animal, preferably. Once assembled, the present invention looks like an animal, and would even have colored fur, perhaps similar to a thick carpet. The present invention would not just have the coloring and features of an animal, but in addition, the present invention would have the contour of an animal—and the contour of the animal assist the child in putting the present invention together.
FIG. 1 shows a top view of the present invention when assembled.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
FIG. 2 shows a side view of a piece of the present invention its layers.
As shown in FIG. 1, the present invention resembles an animal of sorts. Left leg 10 and right leg 20 form one end of the present invention. Pelvic area 50 is positioned between left leg 10 and right leg 20. It is important to note that left leg 10 interlocks into pelvic area 50, and similarly, right leg 20 interlocks into pelvic area 50. Left body piece 30 and right body piece 40 are positioned adjacent to left leg 10 and right leg 20, respectively. Left arm 60 and right arm 70 are positioned adjacent to left body piece 30 and right body piece 40, respectively. Left paw 80 and right paw 90 are positioned adjacent to left arm 60 and right arm 70, respectively. Face 100 is positioned between left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, and right paw 90. It is to be understood that face 100 has a various conventional parts of a face such as ears, eyes, a nose, a mouth—and that each of the various conventional parts of face 100 could be unitary with face 100 or actual pieces that fit into face 100.
FIG. 1 also shows that the parts of the present invention (left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100) are preferably few with respect to one another; that is, roughly 10 or so parts. Because the present invention will actually be played on top of, or sat upon, or jumped upon, it is important that the present invention is preferably not divided into many pieces or structural integrity might fail. Further, preferably, the present invention is sized as would be a typical play mat that would be placed on the floor for children—this means that ideally, the present invention would be roughly 3 feet by 4 feet in size. The parts of the present invention (left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100) shown in FIG. 1 are made of flexible material, preferably, the same as a plush mat. As will be described following this paragraph, underneath the parts of the present invention (left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100) are other layers that complete the present invention. The other layers are cut and sized to correspond with the contours of the parts of the present invention (left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100).
As shown in FIG. 2, the present invention has multiple layers. Plush layer 110 is positioned on the top surface of the present invention. Plush layer 110 is the surface that a child using the present invention would play on or lie down on. From the perspective of FIG. 1, all that is seen is plush layer 110. Underneath plush layer 110 is substrate layer 120 which serves the same purpose as the bottom of a conventional mat or rug—that is, substrate layer 120 serves to bind plush layer 110 so that plush layer 110 has some sort of backing. It should be understood that plush layer 110 can be made of any conventional material. Similarly, it should be understood that substrate layer 120 can be made of any conventional material. When a child picks up left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and/or face 100, the child would most likely dig fingers into plush layer 110 and feel substrate layer 120 beneath plush layer 110. Underneath substrate layer 110 is glue layer 130. Beneath glue layer 130 is foam layer 140.
The layers of the present invention just described are important so that the present invention remains flexible as a mat, as opposed to rigid like a typical puzzle. In fact, unlike typically rigid puzzle, the present invention could conceivably be more difficult to assemble. However, the present invention represents a novel idea to allow a child to play on a mat that the child has created. Thus, it is important that the present invention has certain layers to achieve its desired result. For example, glue layer 130 serves to hold substrate layer 120 against foam layer 140. It is contemplated that substrate layer 120 will be of a material that is rather flexible—the only requirement for substrate layer 120 being that substrate layer 120 is strong enough to hold plush layer 110 in place. The reason for substrate layer 120 being flexible is to contribute to the soft feel of plush layer 110 as perceived by a child sitting upon plush layer 110 and substrate layer 120. At the same time, it is recognized that merely providing plush layer 110 anchored to substrate layer 120 might not provide enough cushioning for a child to play upon the present invention comfortably. Thus, foam layer 140 is provided for extra cushioning so that a child atop the present invention feels as if the present invention is the softest place to play. Additionally, as referred to above, foam layer 140 provides the stability for left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100 to be assembled and taken apart to form and put away the present invention. It is imagined that without the layers provided in the present invention, the present invention would not properly serve as a mat and a puzzle.
Alternate embodiments of the present invention could include optional alternative pieces, which could be used seasonally for decorating purposes or to simply give the present invention a new look. For example, face 100 could be replaced with a similar piece that fits snugly into place, yet depicts a cosmetically different face, such as one with a birthday hat on for birthday parties, or a face with sports equipment on, such as a helmet, for a child who enjoys sports.
Additionally, the present invention could be further enhanced by the inclusion of an interactive, auditory feedback system, which could conceivably coach the child as to how to assemble the present invention, as it is assembled in real-time. In order to accomplish this means, a electrical conduit is preferably integrated into the pieces of the present invention, including the left leg 10, right leg 20, pelvic area 50, left body piece 30, right body piece 40, left arm 60, right arm 70, left paw 80, right paw 90, and face 100, such that a complete circuit is formed only when all of the pieces are assembled in their designated locations. The circuit is preferably established via conventional electrical conduits composed of metal that are integrated into the sides of the parts of the present invention, which make contact to identical electrical conduits found on adjacent puzzle pieces. In this embodiment of the present invention, a weak, harmless electrical current flows through conventional wires preferably embedded between the substrate layer 120 and the foam layer 140 of the present invention, which are connected to the electrical conduits, bridging the gap between assembled puzzle pieces. A system such as this would preferably be able to detect which piece is missing based on the location of the gap within the circuit.
Consequently, with a conventional circuit system in place, a battery is preferably required. Due to the nature of the present invention, a slim, watch-battery and watch-battery holder is preferably employed to provide the current. However, it can be envisioned that alternative embodiments of the present invention could feature larger battery sets to accomplish additional tasks. Additionally, this electric current may be employed to power a small conventional circuit board. The circuit board is preferably configured with limited memory and few programmed functions. Functions managed by the circuit board may include sounding a specific sound according to which piece of the puzzle is inserted or removed. These sounds, including voices, would be conveyed to the child via a conventional speaker which is preferably thin, durable, and lightweight.
For example, after the child assembles two parts of the present invention together, preferably starting with the base piece containing the watch-battery, watch-battery holder, and circuit board, then the present invention may emit a sound coaching the child as to which piece to assemble next. Such a sound may include a phrase, such as “Great job! Now attach the arms!” or something similar. The memory of the circuit board could contain phrases to be played after the successful connection of all pieces of the present invention. Phrases could be adapted for multiple languages in accordance with the country of distribution. Similarly, the present invention could emit a different sound when the present invention is fully constructed by a child, such as “Nice job! Now let's play!” This could sound in conjunction with a simple chime that would ring, signifying completion of the puzzle. This noise could potentially vary in accordance with which piece is inserted into the puzzle last. Additionally, alternate embodiments of the present invention could be configured with a toggle switch that would toggle between emitting a female voice or a male voice.
Also, alternate embodiments of the present invention could be configured to accept a parent's own voice to be played back upon the connection of parts of the present invention. This would preferably be accomplished via a conventional microphone preferably embedded within the circuit board, wherein voices and sounds may be recorded to memory, which will be played back to the child upon the assembly of the parts of the present invention.
Another alternate embodiment of the present invention may include a weight detector, which could determine when a child sits on the present invention to play, and when he or she gets up off of the mat after play is finished. Such a feature would be advantageous as it could be used to trigger additional sounds from the present invention. For example, as a child sits down on the mat, the weight detector (which could amount to a simple spring-loaded connection that is depressed when weight is added) is activated. When the child dismounts the present invention, the weight detector detects that the child has left the present invention, and triggers a sound. The triggering of a sound upon a child's dismount of the present invention could provide cues to the child to clean up the pieces of the present invention when completed. For example, the present invention could be configured to wait one minute after the child has dismounted the present invention, and then emit a phrase saying “Thanks for playing! Don't forget to clean up your toys!” or something to that effect. Similarly, the present invention could be configured to emit a custom phrase recorded by the parent or other individual after a defined elapsed time has passed since the child dismounted the present invention. This helps to encourage good practices beyond simply motivating the child to play on a play mat, rather than risk scratching a floor while playing. It also will encourage a child to disassemble and put away the present invention when play is complete.
Similarly, it can be envisioned that the present invention may tell a brief, auditory story to the child as the pieces are assembled, exhibited as sound emanating from the speakers. The story could potentially be altered through the use of alternative parts of the present invention purchased separately. Additionally, the story may vary in accordance with the order by which the parts of the present invention are assembled. It is to be understood that the auditory electrical components found in alternate embodiments of the present invention are accomplished via conventional means.
It is to be understood that the present invention is not solely limited to the invention as described in the embodiments above, but further comprises any and all embodiments within the scope of the this application.
Furthermore, it is to be understood that the present invention is a method for deploying a play mat on a floor by a user comprising storing a set, said set having at least two pieces, spreading the set on the floor, connecting the set together to form a unitary mat, playing on the unitary mat, and disassembling the unitary mat into the set. The unitary mat preferably has a foam layer, a substrate layer, a plush layer, and a glue layer. The glue layer is configured to bind the substrate layer to the foam layer. Only the foam layer of the unitary mat is designed to touch the floor. Similarly, only the plush layer of the unitary mat is designed to be sat on by the user. Additionally, a sound may be played when a piece is interlocked with another piece. A sound may be played when all pieces are fully assembled. A sound may be played when pieces are separated. Sound may be played when pieces are all disassembled into the set.