Artful play: Yrjö Hirn’s aesthetic approach to children’s play

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Yrjö Hirn (1870–1952) was an early Finnish scholar of aesthetics. He was well-connected and widely travelled a century ago. In 1916 he published Barnlek in Swedish, a book on the play and games of children. This monograph draws on a wide array of sources and discusses children’s play as both a herald of things to come and as a living museum of past tools and practices. Hirn’s book was translated into Finnish, Italian, and French, but today it is mostly forgotten as it is not available in English. Yet this book shows the active debate around play taking place in Europe before Huizinga’s Homo ludens. This article provides an overview of Hirn’s life and thinking, discussed Barnlek and its reception at the time, and discussed the implications of Hirn’s thinking for contemporary play and game studies.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Early online dateJun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • aesthetics
  • Children’s play
  • history of play studies
  • Yrjö Hirn

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology


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