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How Can Non-STEM Parents Motivate Their Kids to Pursue STEM?

10 minute read

STEM is the most booming industry of all. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth of STEM careers by 2029, compared to 3.7% only for all other occupations.

But despite this predicted surge, the U.S. expects millions of STEM positions to go unfilled in the future. Although the demand for STEM jobs is high, the proportion of the population taking up STEM is underwhelming. 

They anticipate approximately 3.5 million STEM jobs needing to be filled by 2025.

It’s a puzzling reality why fewer people pursue STEM degrees, considering that STEM occupations earn 55% over non-STEM workers

But what is the culprit behind this predicament that the U.S. currently faces? 


RELATED: Highest-paying STEM careers for microscope-loving kids


Several reasons why fewer people take up STEM careers?

4 Reasons why fewer people take up STEM majors

  1. Around 52% of American adults believe that students don’t pursue STEM because it is too difficult.

  2. Underrepresentation of women and minorities is another barrier to students’ STEM pursuits. As per Emerson, two out of three women are not encouraged to pursue STEM, attributing their disdain for STEM to gender stereotypes and lack of female role models.

  3. A higher level of educational attainment is required to qualify in STEM positions which bottleneck students who may have desires for STEM careers but are financially limited.

  4. Recent research highlighted the relevance of parent-child conversations in a child’s inclination towards STEM. The absence of STEM communication in the home also limits a child's STEM interest. The study showed that children’s animacy in giving commands to a robot increased in complexity when STEM parents frequently communicated with their kids about robots. In comparison, no increase in complexity was observed among kids who didn’t talk about robots with their non-STEM parents.

The point is STEM-related conversation in the household is crucial and instrumental in molding a child’s interests toward the subject.

But if you’re a parent without any background or prior knowledge of STEM, how can you motivate kids to pursue STEM?

Shall I explain?


What are the common limitations of non-STEM parents?


  • Lack of technical expertise

STEM is engraved in the educational curriculum, so it’s natural for children to encounter STEM courses in school. 

However, not having the technical expertise to support a child in their questions, concerns, or general queries of certain STEM concepts can create communication gaps. As a result, communication revolving around STEM is limited.


  • Absence of STEM-specific cultural capital

According to research by Portland State University, students with STEM parents are more likely to pursue STEM majors, compared to:

1. Students whose parents have a bachelor’s degree in a non-STEM domain

2. Students whose parents have no bachelor’s degree

The authors suggest that passing on the STEM interest works subliminally in various ways, including STEM-oriented household conversations, engaging STEM activities, and participation in extracurricular STEM activities. 

Essentially, STEM parents create a home environment that fosters STEM values.


  • Possible proneness to skepticism on scientific evidence

Despite the status of the United States as a forerunner in STEM, parents exhibit varying values in their perception of scientific thinking. That said, the environment that a child grows up in will influence their manner of reasoning. 

Research from 2013 highlighted the correlation between parents’ epistemology and their child’s evidence talk, which means a child is more likely to replicate their parent’s habitual way of thinking.

The absence of exposure to STEM concepts also limits a child’s propensity for STEM.

Evidently, a parent’s lack of STEM expertise puts them at a disadvantage when encouraging their children to go after STEM careers. But the truth is parents don’t necessarily need a STEM degree to help their kids pursue science.

There are workarounds for non-STEM parents to motivate their kids to pursue STEM, and we comprehensively outlined them below:


How can non-parents encourage their kids in STEM?

How Non STEM Parents Can Motivate Kids to Pursue STEM Article Banner

1. Cut the focus on the potential salary only

According to Microsoft’s STEM perceptions study, a whopping 93% of parents believe that STEM should be a priority in the U.S. 

More than half believe that STEM is the principal edge that will enable the country to thrive and compete globally. While 36% of parents, the majority coming from low-income households, emphasize that STEM can ensure a high-paying and fulfilling career for their children.

The financial perks of STEM can never be understated as STEM careers earn 26% more compared to non-STEM, as per Burning Glass’ insight on STEM careers

But as much as finances matter, the beauty of STEM lies in its challenging nature. The Microsoft study shows that 68% of STEM students chose their STEM degree because it’s intellectually stimulating (the same percentage also mentioned salary as a reason).

Basically, the cognitive impacts of STEM are as crucial as the financial perks.


2. Allow your child to explore freely

There’s a lot of merit in letting your child explore their surroundings. But the most essential benefit they could get is “curiosity.”

As you give your child the liberty to explore the great outdoors, you enable them to observe the world up close. This process develops their curiosity as they muster “why” questions and theorize why things exist as they are. 

The outdoor packs invaluable lessons that even we, as parents, can never attain to instill in our children. Sometimes you’ll need tools or toys to kickstart their outdoorsy adventure.

The point is that every leaf blade, critter, or rock they encounter can be the element that awakens their love for science.

But then again, exploration can also be figurative. 

Everyone has their biases and interests. And allowing your child to immerse and pursue what already piques their interest can help set them up for success better than ingraining a new one to them. As they say:

“It’s easier to feed an existing interest than to force a new one.”


3. Equip them with the right tools

If you’re facing a hurdle in encouraging your kids in STEM, maybe the reason is that we’re simply not playing their game right.

The best way to capture your child’s attention is by using tools that actually engage their senses. I found toys, particularly STEM toys, the most effective.

Children have one weakness, and that’s toys. 

It can be a struggle to captivate your child’s attention, but it becomes a breeze with the right kind of toys. 

STEM toys combine the inviting and fun aspect of regular toys while engaging a child’s senses through intellectually stimulating features and open-ended play

We have a dedicated post that outlines how STEM toys are important. Feel free to read it if you’re planning to get one. 

But not all STEM toys impact children similarly.

Naturally, a child’s preference does come into play. That’s why it’s necessary to let kids freely explore their hobbies and passions. But sometimes, the toy itself may exhibit the non-stimulating aspect, so it’s imperative to understand the elements that make a good STEM toy before buying.


4. Maximize the use of alternative learning outlets

The internet is a gold mine of STEM-ulating learning sources. When harnessed correctly, the internet can bridge the gap between your child and the STEM career you wish for them to pursue — of course, through your proper guidance.

We’ve listed three ways the internet can motivate your kids to pursue STEM:


  • Theme-crafts and experiments

There are a lot of STEM concepts enveloped in the guise of an experiment or activity that kids can learn, from DIY Halloween STEM experiments to a STEM-themed Christmas

Utilizing these activities not only motivates your child to dig deeper into STEM learning, but they can also be fun bonding activities to strengthen the parent-child relationship between you.


  • Educational shows and movies

With the uprise of subscription streaming websites, there’s unlimited access to movies and shows across the globe. And educational shows and movies are not out of the question.

A few hours of screen time isn’t inherently wrong, especially if utilized in productive ends. However, just to be safe, make sure to keep your child under the recommended screen time for their age.

I won’t delve into details on the educational TV shows for kids, but feel free to visit our dedicated article for that topic. 

If movies are more your children’s preference, I also have a list of awesome science movies that inspire brilliance to children too!


  • STEM websites

Thankfully, there are STEM advocates who believe STEM learning should be freely accessible to kids. 

These websites feature games, stories, trivia, and lessons that can reinforce what your child learns in school. 

Here are a few examples of those STEM websites:

Cyberchase (PBS Kids)

NASA Kids Club


5. Encourage an atmosphere of questions

Although non-STEM parents might find it challenging to answer a child’s STEM questions right away, encouraging questions in the home is paramount.

Some parents might even find it repulsive. But STEM learning is truly realized when children receive satisfying answers to their mind-boggling curiosity-driven inquiries.

Let curiosity thrive in the home by offering an inviting presence for their questions. 

Even though you might not know the exact answer at the moment, offer to research with them.

I don’t know all the answers too. But I never let it get in the way of helping my kids find the solution. Personally, I use a uniform script whenever my kids present me with a challenging question, and you might find this helpful too:

“I don’t know the answer yet, but we can research it together if you want.”

Most of the time, they agree. And guess what, I also learn a thing or two from our joint Google searching activity!


Can Non-STEM Parents Motivate Kids to Explore STEM?


A resounding yes.

But ultimately, all we can do is support them as they explore the STEM field (or other fields, for that matter) that our children find most interesting.

Our parental duty is to offer our never-ending support and love as children pursue their endeavors. 

As stated in the above texts, STEM toys are valuable tools to reinforce your child’s STEM interest. And if you’re looking for a helpful toy, our lightweight, portable, and pocketable STEMscope kids’ microscope is one splendid example!

Feel free to visit our full line-up of science gadgets to learn more, and we wish you the best of luck as you encourage your child to pursue STEM!

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