When I was visiting Lisa last month, she made a comment about how one of the most skills a child can learn is to be able to entertain himself. Some children, she said, know how to do it easily enough: give him some toys, doesn't need to be many, or overwhelmingly interesting, and he'll play play play. Some of the ability to self-entertain is based on the child's imagination: a wood block can be a wood block, a building, a brick, a gift, a loaf of bread, a cookie, a chocolate bar, a book, or an eraser. When we grow older, we often think less creatively, and the wood block is just a wood block; the dot on the chalkboard is just a dot.
When watching Eli and Jake, I noticed Eli was remarkably able to self-entertain himself. He would like books read to him, but seemed fine to be left alone with his toys. Often, he would be pull a box out, dump it, and start in on some story about the airplane landing in the corn field with the city in chaos next to it, and the tree people with incredible leaping abilities being able to jump on top of the planes. He seemed lost in his little world until another event pulled him out of it.
Jake, on the other hand, seemed pulled out easily. Distracted by the outside quickly, not as immersed into his own world as Eli was, Jake seemed to need outside stimulus to keep him occupied.
As a kid, I remember reading books. I know I was lost in the world of books, being able to block out the world when I'm immersed in a book. I don't recall being self-entertained as a kid with much other than books. I watch Jonathan's kids and am amazed how similar they are to Jake and Eli in terms of self-entertainment. The elder seems to need external stimulus to be entertained, where the younger is content with his trains and toys.
I wonder if the trend was true of my older brother and me, if it's a "first born gets lots of attention so never really learned to self-entertain, but the second is somewhat ignored so is forced to self-entertain" sort of thing, or just, at this moment, a coincidence. I also wonder if the current always-on, 140 character, 30 second attention span affects the ability to self-entertain.
I should ask some parents who have two or more children. See what they say...