Rubber Duck: What Exactly Is Its Function?

rubber duck

What are staples of a perfect bath time? Do you require a bath bomb and pleasantly smelling candles? Or, is all you need a good book? A companion you may have forgotten from your youth is a rubber duck. But, what function does it serve exactly? In today’s blog, we dive into the cultural history of this yellow toy as we aim to answer this question once and for all.

What is a Rubber Duck?

A rubber duck is a toy shaped like a stylised version of the bird, generally yellow with a flat base. If it’s not made of rubber, it comes from a rubber-like material such as vinyl plastic. This is because it’s easy to shape.

In fact, the birth of this bath time favourite links to the emergence of rubber manufacturing in the late 19th century. Originally, they tried something called vulcanised rubber. However, this solid duck was not capable of floating and was instead intended as chew toys.

In the 1940s, sculptor Peter Ganine created a sculpture of the duck. He then patented it and reproduce it as a floating toy. Over 50 million versions of this copy sold.

Beside the iconic yellow version, the rubber duck comes in a variety of novelty and basic themes including representations of professions, politicians, or celebrities. Apparently, even Queen Elizabeth II has a bathtub companion that wears an inflatable crown.

In 2013, the toy found its place in the Toy Hall of Fame along with the game of chess. Toys are selected based on factors like icon-status, longevity, and innovation.

So, what exactly is its purpose?

Surprisingly enough, because of its icon status, this is a multi-pronged answer.

Childhood Development

Firstly, they are believe to improve development skills in children during water play. Additionally, they add an element of fun for an activity that might not be a favourite for a hydrophobic tot.


Next, they stand as a protest symbol being utilised simultaneously in Belgrade, Brazil and Moscow in 2017, and in Bangkok in 2020. It’s cute, but also a symbol against corruption.

Additionally, the world’s largest rubber duck sought to bring happiness to all who saw it as well as awareness about climate change. This 54 x 66 x 105 foot and 1,300 lb creature came from the hands of artist Florentijn Hofman. Since then, others of various sizes found themselves in rivers in Amsterdam, Lommel, Osaka, Sydney, São Paulo, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, and Seoul until 14 November 2014.


But, the cultural impact doesn’t stop there. Derby duck races help fundraise for organisations worldwide. First, people donate money by sponsoring a duck. Then, at the end of the fundraiser, the organisation dumps the ducks into a waterway. Whichever is the first to float past the finish line wins a prize for its sponsor!

Debugging Code

Last, but not least, the rubber duck is an excellent coder. Or rather, it helps a coder debug their code. The method is that they can find the issue by explaining the code, line-by-line, to the toy. By teaching a subject, it forces it evaluation from different perspectives and can provide a deeper understanding.

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.