KEY POINTS

  • National Rubber Ducky Day is celebrated every Jan. 13
  • The bathtub toy gained massive popularity in the '70s due to "Sesame Street"
  • Rubber ducks helped scientists learn more about ocean currents and waves

Every Jan. 13, National Rubber Ducky Day is celebrated to pay tribute to the rubber duck toy that is likely found in nearly every household in the country.

In honor of National Rubber Ducky Day, here are 12 facts that you may not know about this popular bath toy.

1. A long, long history

Rubber duckies can trace their origins back to the late 1800s. At the time, the first rubber ducks didn't even float — they were cast solid and were used as chew toys for children. It wasn't until the 1940s when rubber ducks developed into the floating, yellow figure everyone knows today.

2. Rubber duckies aren't really rubber

Despite their name, rubber ducks are usually made of plastic instead of rubber.

3. There is a rubber duck the size of a building

Craig Samborski claimed to have created the world's largest rubber duck in 2014, according to Green Bay Press-Gazette. About the same height as a six-story building, the giant rubber duck, dubbed Mama Duck, is 61 feet high, 69 feet wide and 79 feet long and weighs 31,000 pounds. The rubber ducky sails around the world to appear at festivals, where people can marvel at it.

4. "Sesame Street" played a role in its popularity

While it started gaining recognition as a bathtub toy in the '50s and '60s, the rubber ducky became even more popular in the 1970s when Ernie, the cheerful orange Muppet on "Sesame Street," first sang the catchy ditty "Rubber Duckie" to his best bath buddy. The song rose to no. 16 on Billboard's Hot 100 and has since stuck with children around the world.

5. Rubber ducks are good for child development

Playing with rubber ducks during bath time inspires water play that develops muscle strength and coordination. With their bright color, smooth texture, and squeaky or quacky sounds, rubber ducks are known to sharpen a toddler's senses.

To add, the floatable toy's presence in the bathtub can soothe children's fear of water and makes good clean fun of the routine hygiene they're learning.

6. Rubber duckies helped scientists

In 1992, three containers full of rubber ducks fell off a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean. The yellow floatables drifted into other bodies of water, with some ending up in England, South America, Australia and even the west coast of Canada. In effect, the ducks helped scientists learn more about ocean currents and waves, according to BritishCouncil.org.

Yellow rubber ducks have become a symbol for the Thai pro-democracy protests after demonstrators used large inflatable toy ducks to shield themselves from police water cannon Yellow rubber ducks have become a symbol for the Thai pro-democracy protests after demonstrators used large inflatable toy ducks to shield themselves from police water cannon Photo: AFP / Mladen ANTONOV

7. Charlotte Lee has the world's biggest rubber duck collection

Charlotte Lee, an American woman, holds the Guinness world record for the largest rubber duck collection. After starting her collection in 1996, she revealed on "Today" that she had gathered more than 9,000 floatable ducks as of 2019.

8. Rubber was a precious commodity in World Wars I and II

During the years of World Wars I and II, rubber was considered a valuable commodity, and rationing became mandatory. By the 1940s, however, the rubber ducky began being produced in vinyl and plastic.

9. The birth of an icon

In 2001, it was revealed that Queen Elizabeth II had a rubber duck in her bathroom that wore an inflatable crown. Following the news, sales of the yellow rubber ducky soared in Britain.

10. Hall of Famer

The rubber duck became a Toy Hall of Fame inductee back in 2013. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1998 and has only inducted 52 other toys.

11. Design matters

In 1928, Landon Smart Lawrence received the earliest patent for a rubber duck toy. His clever design of the floatable weighted the toy so that when it tipped, it returned to an upright position.

12. There are rubber ducky races

People around the world hold rubber ducky races, where thousands of ducks are numbered and dumped into a waterway, signaling the start of the race. The first rubber ducky to cross the finish line is declared the winner.