If you have children or work with public schools, there’s a chance that you’ve heard of a little holiday called International Dot Day. While the name may be surprising and a bit confusing for some, there’s much more to this celebration than a simple dot.

In fact, that small point is the expansion for much, much more.

Taking place annually on “September 15th-ish” according to the official website, International Dot Day is designed to celebrate the creative potential of everyone, and inspire children to use their gifts and talents to change the world.

Dot day is often a school-sponsored event, so if your child has returned home speaking about dots and celebrations, we’ve got everything you need to know about the history of this holiday, what it represents to others, and why you should help participate in International Dot Day.

The Origins of The Dot

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Dot day, of course, has to start from a single point. In this case, that point is Peter H. Reynolds.

Peter Reynolds is as an author, illustrator, and creator of International Dot Day. The concept of the holiday stems from his 2003 children’s book The Dot, which chronicles a young girl named Vashti.

When initially fearful to be creative in the classroom by drawing for the teacher to see, Vashti’s teacher encourages her to start with just a dot, and start outward from there. The young girl creates the dot and is surprised that her teacher is excited and happy about the work she created.

Vashti initially had a similar reaction that most others would in her situation—she was confused and felt as if her dot creation was not her best work. Fueled by motivation within her to do better than she did before, Vashti sets off to create another dot and another one. This turn of events forces Vashti out of her comfort zone and off to share her work with others.

The message behind Reynold’s The Dot is simple: despite the frustrations of our inner critic, if left to create without shame, people—and children especially—can accomplish great wonders. After publication, The Dot became nationally and internationally recognized as a powerful way to convey and encourage creativity in young people.

That level of success, in turn, motivated Peter Reynolds, who began work on a yearly holiday to both celebrate creativity and build upon the ideas in his book.

History of International Dot Day

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According to the International Dot Day website, the foundation of this celebration did not solely rest on Reynolds. In fact, it because with a single teacher: Terry Shay.

Terry Shay, who was inspired by the material and learning opportunities present in The Dot, presented the book to his classroom and students on September 15th, 2009. This, alongside the initial publication of the book on September 15th, 2003, is where the “September 15th-ish” date originates from.

Statistics on the meteoric growth of this holiday are scarce, but what’s clear is that Reynold’s message resonated strongly enough with Shay’s students to spark a nation-wide celebration. Currently, 10 million people in 170 countries celebrate Dot Day and empower their students with opportunities for success.

For parents, Dot Day is a wonderful opportunity to promote creativity. Parents can encourage their young learners not only to participate in Dot Day activities at the local school but to also create in the home and never be afraid to show off the fruits of their labor.

For educators, Dot Day is an opportunity to enrich a classroom with a safe and educational book for students. Teachers who are interested in bringing Dot Day to their schools can contact their administrator and share with them the free Dot Day handbook provided by a company associated with Reynolds.

If Dot Day is coming up for your school, and you’re not sure where to start, there are many tips, tricks, games, and activities recommended in the book to keep the creativity flowing at home and in the classroom.

Consider the following activities to try out with your children and continue to celebrate this day:

Games and Activities

While the following games & activities have traditionally taken place on Dot Day, remember that the entire purpose of this holiday is to give everyone, teachers included, the opportunity to express themselves.

Feel free to mix around a few of these ideas and implement your own. Or, create a new activity entirely in the spirit of creativity and what all can come from just one dot.

The Creation of a Single Dot

The simplest activity to start off Dot Day is the one included in the book—the creation of a single dot. Educators can either hand students papers with a hollow circle to start off their dots, or simply hand out blank pieces of paper and encourage students to create.

You can further incentivize this activity by leaving out as many art supplies as possible. Markers, pens, pencils, paint, glitter, and other supplies can be left out and used by the students in the making of their dot.

You can also take the abstract creations of your students and place them on a board or a wall for the entire classroom to see. Be sure to carefully monitor the students and make sure that no one is criticizing other people’s work.

Remind your students that the purpose of this day is not to condemn, but to condone. Or in other words, to create rather than to tear down. Teachers can use these dots as a running history of several dot days, or for use in a combined art project that all students can enjoy.

The creation of the dot can also take place on larger surfaces as well. Teachers have been known to cover entire round desks in construction paper and organize groups of students to fill in their dots. If you find your students are hesitant, maybe a gentle time limit could enable them to let go of inhibition and create whoever comes to mind.

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These dots can be filled with abstract colors or subjects that involve a student’s life. Just be sure not to micromanage and see what comes of the day, rather than following through with any preconceived notion.

If you were hoping for more physical activity on your September day, consider purchasing a few games of Twister to keep within the dotted theme and allow your students to think critically about how best not to fall over.

You can alternatively allow your students to create with a dot already created for them. For this activity, create enough black dots out of construction paper to give to your students, and preferably keep them about an inch or so in size.

After handing your students black dots and a piece of paper, encourage them to create an image that incorporates the back dot in some manner. Students can glue down their black dots and create images that will vary wildly from each other and can be preserved on the classroom wall as a reminder of how much can be created from so little.

Remember that Reynolds and his team try to help all teachers with their Dot Day celebrations, so if you’re stuck or maybe want advice from the experts, reach out to them at the official website. Who knows? You may get even more information than you were expecting.

Final Thoughts

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We hope we’ve clarified International Dot Day and its value in schools across the country and around the world. In many ways, the simplistic and confusing name is appropriate for the holiday. While many may consider a single dot to be something that involves no creativity, what can stem from that dot is where the true creativity lies.

Dot Day teaches students about the importance of creativity, but that lesson doesn’t have to end on the 16th. Dot Day serves as a continuous reminder for parents, children, and other adults not to fear outside judgment, and to never let the threat of criticism stifle future work.

In a time when almost anything can be created and shared with millions online, the threat to creativity is high. While it’s always important to practice some discretion when sharing content online, remember that there’s always room for an original opinion and an honest voice.

Our children will grow up in an age where creativity has never been easier, but also when criticism has never been so prevalent. As they grow up and uncover more of the reality of our world, they’ll need the firm foundation in childhood to believe in their voices and have the confidence to tell their own stories.

So as your kids continue to grow and transform, remind them that it all starts from a single dot.