“Rubber ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun. Rubber ducky I’m awfully fond of you!” sang Sesame Street’s Ernie during bath time. The friendly puppet isn’t the only fan of the bath accessory— the country celebrates the toy on National Rubber Ducky Day on January 13.
The popular toy has seen a lot of variations in its history. First designed in the 1800s when rubber manufacturing began, the duck was then made out of plastic and vinyl during both World Wars, as rubber was scarce. The ducky toy was first patented in 1928 by Landon Smart Lawrence, but the toy was a little heavier back then—he put a weight in it to make sure it would always stay upright.
If you’re every out in the ocean, you might just run into a rubber ducky. 28,000 rubber ducks on their way via boat to Washington went overboard during a storm in 1992. It’s been said that the ducks floated north to the Arctic, got trapped in the ice, and were slowly thawed out into the Atlantic Ocean. There are thousands still out there, and often happen upon shores all over the world.
Be on the lookout and be sure to celebrate their big day on January 13!
National Rubber Ducky Day Activities
1. Visit the Rubber Duck sculpture
What’s better than a tiny bath toy? A huge replica in the open waters! Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman created a collection of large ducks which can be seen in Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong, and various other cities around the world. Hofman makes the ducks out of PVC, and the largest creation is 85 feet wide, 65 feet long, and 105 feet high.
2. Attend a rubber duck race
Every year, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH hosts a race of the duckies through Big Walnut Creek. Each duck is purchased by a sponsor to support research for the hospital. You can buy one for $5, or a “brood” of 130 for $500. Thousands of the yellow toys are unleashed into the creek, and onlookers watch to see which one crosses the finish line first. The top three ducks (marked with their sponsor’s name) earn the sponsors big prizes—like a year-lease for a BMW!
3. Take a bath!
Celebrate the ducky in the way it was intended! Pour some bubbles into your tub, light some candles, and turn on some relaxing music. Take some time for yourself to relax and recharge, and put a couple rubber ducks in the bath for some added fun!
Why We Love National Rubber Ducky Day
A. They help out good causes
Rubber duckies are used all over the world as symbols to raise money for medical research and charitable organizations. Every year, The Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers in Valencia, CA hold a Rubber Ducky Festival to raise money for their programs. The United Nations Children’s Fund had more than 50,000 ducks swim the Danube River. In Chicago, The Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby raises money for the Special Olympics of Illinois.
B. Because Ernie says so
National Rubber Ducky Day gets its date from Sesame Street, when Ernie said the toy’s birthday was on January 13. He loved the duck so much, and made sure it was always there as a bath time staple. His famous Rubber Duckie song became such a hit that it even reached number 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart in 1970 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording for Children!
C. The Queen loves them
Supposedly. Rumors swirled in 2001 from a British tabloid saying that Queen Elizabeth II had her own royal version of the rubber ducky in her bathroom—complete with a crown! Fans went crazy and sales for the toy rose by an amazing 80%!