WordPress Words: Child Theme

A Child Theme is a Theme that inherits the functionality of another Theme, called the parent Theme. Child Themes allow you to modify, or add to the functionality of that parent Theme. A Child Theme is the best, safest, and easiest way to modify an existing Theme, whether you want to make a few tiny changes or extensive changes. Instead of modifying the Theme files directly, you can create a Child Theme and override within.
Child Themes – WordPress Codex

Child Themes Protect WordPress Themes

A Child Theme is used by WordPress users to modify the code within the Parent Theme. It can apply to all Themes; Child Themes are ubiquitous. If you modify your existing Theme and then your Theme is updated, all of the changes you made will be lost, overwritten by the updated code. With the customization set in a Child Theme, you still keep your modifications or changes.

A user can create their own Child Theme from any WordPress Themes, and there are Child Themes available for existing Parent Themes, often provided by popular Theme designers and developers. The user installs the Parent Theme, free or premium, and opts to install a variation on that Theme with a Child Theme.

Child Themes were developed by Ian Stewart of Theme Shaper and their popularity among WordPress developers including author and developer Justin Tadlock, led to their inclusion in the core in WordPress 2.7. Before Child Themes, users customized their Themes then feared updates as the code would be overwritten, destroying their customization and modification. Elaborate notes had to be kept and code and styles redeployed after every WordPress Theme update. Child Themes protected those modifications, allowing Themes to be easily updated.

Parent Themes provide the design, Widgets and layout framework. When you create a Child Theme from the parent, the Child Theme inherits the CSS and PHP templates from the parent. The Child Theme relies upon the CSS !important to overwrite the design and coding instructions from the Parent Theme.

A Child Theme sites in a standalone directory hosting the files that permit you to modify the parent Theme. The most simple Child Theme hosts only the style.css file with changes to the look and feel of the site’s design. By copying a template file from the Parent Theme into the Child Theme, changes may be made to the HTML, PHP, WordPress template tags, and other functionality to overwrite the features of the parent template file.

A Child Theme features specific instructions in the comments of the style.css file that points to the Parent Theme and important parent styles.

Child Themes are very powerful. You can experiment and customize almost without limits to design a truly unique Theme.

Child Theme Resources and References

For more information and a definition of WordPress Themes, see the ClarkWP WordPress Word article for “WordPress Themes.”

See the list below to learn more about Child Themes:

Related Links:

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