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What Is A WordPress Child Theme? (Pros & Cons)

what is a wordpress child theme

Are you ready to learn what is a WordPress child theme exactly? (And are there any pros and cons to it?)

A child theme contains all the parent theme’s features and functionalities.

It’s a perfect solution for making changes, edits and improvements without actually editing the parent theme’s files.

One of the best things about WordPress is its sheer number of themes.

But, no matter HOW MUCH you may like a specific theme, there might be a situation where you want to change a few style settings or add a particular feature that you cannot add through the theme settings.

If you’re not careful and add those modifications directly to your theme, they’ll get overridden when a theme update comes around.

That’s why it’s much better to use a WordPress child theme.

This post covers:

What Is A Child Theme In WordPress?

According to the official definition from the WordPress Codex, a WordPress child theme is a theme that “inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme.”

WordPress child themes are used to modify the parent theme without altering the theme itself.

It’s a lot safer.

This allows you to PRESERVE your changes even if your WordPress parent theme gets updated because the changes won’t get overridden by the update.

Very convenient!

From a user’s point of view, they’re free to make modifications to the theme, such as changing styles or adding new functionality.

For designers and developers, child themes allow them to quickly create a bunch of different styles and designs based on a robust and reliable theme without coding everything from scratch.

Saves heaps of time.

When Should You Use a WordPress Child Theme?

So now that you know what a WordPress child theme is, you might wonder when you should actually use one.

The answer is: It depends on your needs. (How boring is this answer from 1 to 10?)

Here’s more.

If you’re happy with your current WordPress theme and you don’t foresee yourself making changes to it, you probably DON’T HAVE to use a child theme.

But, if you’re constantly modifying your theme’s style.css or functions.php file, you’d be better off creating a child theme and applying your modifications to the child theme.

This allows you to customize the theme to your heart’s content without the risk of losing all your hard work when the theme updates.

Pros and Cons of Using Child Themes

As with anything else, there are pros and cons to using a WordPress child theme.

Before creating and using a child theme for your WordPress website, here’s what you need to consider.

WordPress child themes pros:

  • You can safely update your parent theme without the fear of losing updates and modifications you applied to the child theme. That’s because you never have to modify the parent theme’s files with a child theme.
  • If you’re using a framework as the parent theme, you can have a great deal of flexibility in your child theme without adding a lot of your own code. Another benefit of using a framework is that you can easily add new functionality and modify only the template files you need.
  • You don’t have to think about all the possible scenarios in your child theme. You can rely on the parent theme to provide your needed features and functionality.

WordPress child theme cons:

  • You’ll need to spend some time getting familiar with the parent theme or the framework you’re creating the child theme for. Not to mention, there’s also the learning curve involved with working with more robust themes and frameworks.
  • Your parent theme’s developers may decide to stop supporting the theme in the future and abandon it altogether. Or they might drop a feature that you were using in your child theme. In that case, you’ll need to get more familiar with coding or you’ll need to find a new parent theme.

How to Create a WordPress Child Theme

Creating a child theme is not at all difficult.

First, you need to create a folder for your child theme in your themes directory.

You can find it at wp-content/themes.

For best practices, you should name your child theme the same as your parent theme with the word -child appended at the end. (Organizations matter!)

So, for example, if you’re creating a child theme for TwentyTwenty theme, you’d name the theme and the folder twentytwenty-child.

The next step is to create a style.css file.

This stylesheet will contain all of the CSS rules and declarations that you’ll add to customize the look of your theme.

This file should also include the following comments at the top of the file:

Theme Name: Twenty Twenty Child
Theme URL:
Description: Twenty Twenty Child
Theme Author: Your Name
Author URL:
Template: twentytwenty
Version: 1.0.0
Text Domain: twentytwenty-child

The last step is to enqueue the parent and child theme stylesheets.

For this, you’ll need to create the functions.php file for your child theme and add the following lines to it:

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'enqueue_parent_styles' );
function enqueue_parent_styles() {
   wp_enqueue_style( 'parent-style', get_template_directory_uri().'/style.css' );

The last step is to activate your child theme by going to your WordPress dashboard and navigating to Appearance > Themes.

Activate the child theme you’ve just created, and you’ll see that it looks the same as the parent theme.

You can now customize it HOWEVER YOU WANT. In other words, make your dream website or blog.

Final Thoughts

A WordPress child theme is useful if you want to edit your WordPress theme safely and without the fear of losing your updates and modifications when a theme update rolls around.

With the tips in this article, you can CREATE and USE a WordPress child theme to make stylistic changes to your website.

The only thing left to do now is to choose a good parent theme and get to work.

Good luck!

FAQs About WordPress Child Themes

What is a WordPress child theme?

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme. Child themes are often used to make customizations without altering the parent theme itself.

Why should I use a WordPress child theme?

Using a child theme allows you to customize your site’s design and functionality without affecting the parent theme. This makes it easy to update the parent theme without losing your changes.

How do I create a WordPress child theme?

To create a child theme, you need to make a new theme directory in your WordPress installation, create a “style.css” file in that directory, and enqueue the parent and child theme stylesheets.

Can I use a child theme with any WordPress theme?

Yes, you can use a child theme with any WordPress theme, but it’s especially useful with themes that are updated frequently.

Do child themes affect website performance?

Generally, child themes do not significantly affect website performance. They simply add a layer of customization on top of the parent theme.

Can I update my parent theme without affecting the child theme?

Yes, one of the main benefits of using a child theme is that you can update the parent theme without affecting your customizations in the child theme.

What happens if I switch the parent theme?

If you switch the parent theme, the child theme may not work as expected since it relies on the parent theme’s functionality and style.

Can I sell a WordPress child theme?

Yes, you can sell a WordPress child theme, but you need to ensure that the parent theme’s license allows it, and your theme adheres to WordPress guidelines.

About Author

Brenda is a freelance writer from southern California. Her work has appeared on numerous tech and web development websites. When she’s not creating content, she participates in about a million hobbies and spends time with her family.