Science has given plenty of attention to how playtime affects kids’ brains—but what about how these same activities affect the parent? That is, when the parent engages in playtime with their kiddo—and not solo time playing with other toys, blocks, Barbies and the rest of the awesomeness that children are lucky enough to experience daily.

New research from the University of East London, Cambridge University and Nanyang Technological University, may have found some answers. A recent study published in the journal PLOS Biology, looked at what happens to both the parent’s and child’s brain during together-time play.

Researchers looked at electroencephalography (EEG) scans from parents and their 12-month-olds separately and together at play. And what did they find? Well, when the baby paid attention to a toy, activity or whatever else they were doing at play, the parent’s brain perked up. Not only did the parents’ brains echo their kiddos’ EEG activity, but the more responsive they were, the longer the babies paid attention.

The parents’ increased brain activity didn’t necessarily have much to do with what they were doing. In other words, these bursts weren’t associated with the parent playing with a toy or engaging in an action themselves. Instead, the higher parental brain activity levels were related to the baby paying attention to playtime!

—Erica Loop