August 2, 2019

National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunizations (also called shots or vaccinations) help keep us healthy and safe from serious diseases. As August is National Immunization Awareness Month, take this time to check in on which shots you or your child needs and when to get them.


Vaccinations can prevent serious diseases like the flu, measles, and pneumonia. As an example, at age 6 months and older, everyone is highly encouraged to get a flu shot every year. However, many other shots work best when they are administered at certain ages.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to make sure that everyone in your family gets the shots they need and use the resources below for access to more information:


If you can’t afford vaccinations for your child, the PA Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) provides vaccinations at no cost to children who might not otherwise receive them. You can also apply for the PA Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which includes coverage of vaccinations.

For information on the VFC program, call 1.888.646.6864.

For information on CHIP, call 1.800.986.5437.

Information provided by The Pennsylvania Key


July 18, 2019

Eye Contact with Babies Increases Information Coupling

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that shared eye contact increases information coupling between infant and adult brains.


Communication is a fundamental part of life, especially when considering the early learning and development of a newborn child. In conversation, we use different types of social signals, both verbal and non-verbal, to share meaning with others. These signals can include things such as mimicking facial expressions, vocal tone, and eye contact. However, a recent study concluded that eye contact in specific can be a powerful tool to increase information coupling between infants and adults.

Information Coupling

In the study, researchers state that “previous research indicates that when communication is successful, close temporal dependencies arise between adult speakers’ and listeners’ neural activity.” Through these dependencies, an individual that’s communicating with another person can have varying levels of influence on the other person’s neural activity. In short, this coupling acts as a form of “social connectedness,” where the actions, reactions, and expressions of a person impacts how another person’s brain responds.

For adults interacting with young children, using social signals such as direct eye contact can bring the child and adult’s “brains into temporal alignment, creating a joint-networked state that is structured to facilitate information sharing during early communication and learning.” Temporal alignment between adults and infants is important, as it “plays a vital role in supporting early learning across multiple domains of language, cognition, and socioemotional development.”

Infants spend a lot of time looking at the faces of others, interpreting the way their facial features move, where their eyes shift to, and how their voices sound. And as they rely on these social cues to interpret meaning in their daily life, direct gaze is thought to be one of the most important cues for individuals and infants to infer communicative intent. Babies prefer to look at the face people who are looking right at them, with direct gaze even reinforcing the social responses that babies produce and their ability to recognize face-related information.


In conclusion, adults working or living with infants should consider using direct eye contact frequently with their child. Whether an adult is playing with, reading with, bathing, or even singing a nursery rhyme to a child, shared eye contact can act to build strong communication and information sharing between the two.

To learn more about the importance of speaker gaze, read the full report.

Article Citation

Leong, Victoria, et al. “Speaker Gaze Increases Information Coupling between Infant and Adult Brains.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 12 Dec. 2017,


July 2, 2019

Free Dental Clinic: Mission of Mercy

Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh is providing free dental clinic services on a first-come, first served basis on July 26 and 27th, with doors opening at 6 a.m.


If you, a loved one, or a friend are in need of free dental care, Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh (MOMPGH) is here to help! MOMPGH provides free dental services, with a limit of one dental procedure per patient per day, on a first-come, first serve basis until capacity is reached.

The clinic doesn’t require specific eligibility or income requirements and is open to children (ages 2 to 17) and adults. If a child is present (anyone under 18), there must be a guardian available to watch the child at all times, meaning if one adult is receiving a procedure, another must be present to watch the child. Child care is not provided.

Pre-registration is not required, but it is recommended to arrive early. Participants must enter through the PPG Paints Arena Highmark Gate, located next to the Epiphany Catholic Church on Centre Avenue.

Services Provided

The free dental clinic provides:

  • cleanings,
  • fillings
  • root canal treatments on selective teeth,
  • extractions,
  • oral hygiene instruction, and
  • a limited number of temporary partial dental appliances.


Shuttle services will be provided for patients, with two routes available. The circuit for each route will on the hour, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The last shuttle will depart PPG Paints Arena at 6 p.m.

Route A
  • Station Square T Station
  • Carson Towers (2117 East Carson Street)
  • Hillman Library (2960 Forbes Avenue)
  • VA Pittsburgh Hospital – University Center
  • Jubilee Kitchen (2005 Wyandotte Street)
  • PPG Paints Arena (1001 Fifth Avenue)
Route B
  • Saint Stanislaus Church (57 21st Street)
  • Giant Eagle on North Side (318-320 Cedar Avenue)
  • Greyhound Station (55 11th Street)
  • Market Square
  • PPG Paints Arean (1001 Fifth Avenue)

Click here to view the map.

Learn More

To learn more about available services, what to expect, and more, visit the MOMPGH page.

For questions, email


December 6, 2018

100,000 Books Campaign: Free Book Fair

United Way’s 100,000 Books initiative is giving away new and gently used books to support your students’ developing reading skills.  A variety of books are available for various age groups, although this year’s selection appears to have more in the pre-k to 3rd-grade range.

To qualify, your program must use a mentor – reader model. This event is first come – first serve, so show up early. Bringing boxes is recommended. Register here.

What is 100,000 Books?

100,000 Books builds on research that demonstrates the importance of connecting a caring adult or older student with a child.  This mentor model has been shown to have a significant impact on the life of a child and will be the primary model that 100,000 Books uses to support reading skills development.  Mentors (teachers, librarians, youth workers, caring adults, older students…) will reinforce reading skills through one time and on-going read-along opportunities that will help kids to build this critical love of reading.


If you have any questions, please contact Tanya Baronti at or Joe Welsh at


November 20, 2018

KaBOOM! Announces Let’s Play Everywhere Challenge Winners

KaBOOM! recently announced the winners of the Let’s Play Everywhere Challenge. As part of the Challenge, 10 grantees in Allegheny County were selected to receive a combined total of $200,000 in prize funds. Trying Together is pleased to announce that the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative was awarded one of these grants for The Neighborhood Play Stop Project. Learn more about it and the other grantees below.


Challenge Winners

The Let’s Play Everywhere Challenge selected nine organizations as winners, with a total of ten ideas:

  1. Trying Together (Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative)
    • The Neighborhood Play Stop Project
  2. Glassport Community Outreach, Inc.
    • Families Will Go Gaga to Play GaGa
  3. Pittsburgh Fulton PTO
    • From Pittsburgh to Paris and Beyond!
  4. Garfield Jubilee Association, Inc.
    • James Sensory Park
  5. Grounded Strategies
    • MACS Discovery Walk
    • Race Me! Pitcairn Green Playce
  6. Community Forge
    • Number Mountain
  7. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
    • Ping Pong in the Plaza
  8. UniversalWit
    • Play! to End Blight
  9. Focus on Renewal
    • POW! (Place of Wonder)

The Neighborhood Play Stop Project

The Neighborhood Play Stop Project will reimagine existing spaces within Hazelwood by using play stops to encourage community engagement and playful interaction. These play stops may be featured in public spaces near businesses and civic locations such as grocery stores, green spaces,  fire stations, and more. Conversations are underway to identify the finalized play stop locations.


By placing play stops in spaces that are not typically associated with play, this project will prompt community members of all ages to rethink their daily routines. For children, it’s an opportunity for imaginative play. For adults, it may be a space where they can take a mental break and play chess or engage in a calming playful activity. Similar to the Little Free Library movement, these play stops will be stewarded by various entities (the businesses where they are located, Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative member organizations, interested community members, etc.).

A Closer Look

Each stop will be based upon the common concept of play and will have playful interactive parts that relate to the location and the party stewarding the installation. For example, a stop outside a grocery store may include play items such as plastic fruits and vegetables to “purchase,” paper and pencils to create grocery lists, and laminated sheets of information about grocery store products.  However, if a stop is located outside of a fire department, their play items may include play items such as firefighter helmets, a mini fire drill tower, and fire safety facts.

Each stop will include a chalkboard with permanently affixed prompts for participants to write their thoughts. Prompts may include statement starters such as “When I play outside I like to…” or “At the grocery store I can find these colors…”

About the Challenge

The Let’s Play Everywhere Challenge is a design competition that took place in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania—presented by Keurig Dr. Pepper and KaBOOM!—to develop innovative ideas for making play easy and available for kids and families. This challenge is about creating opportunities for free, unstructured, unplanned play to ensure that all kids, no matter where they come from or where they live, get the active play they need to thrive.

Learn More

To learn more about the challenge winners and their ideas, read KaBOOM’s post.