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How to Create a WordPress Child Theme: A Complete Guide

If you’re building a website with WordPress, it’s essential to understand the benefits of using a child theme. A child theme is a WordPress theme that inherits the functionality and styling of a parent theme but allows you to make customizations without affecting the parent theme. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the process of How to Create a WordPress Child Theme so you can take advantage of it.

So, let’s get started!

What Is a WordPress Child Theme? 

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another WordPress theme, known as the parent theme. The child theme allows you to modify and customize the parent theme without making any changes to the original files of the parent theme. It’s a separate theme that you create based on an existing theme, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

How Does it Work? 

WordPress child themes work by inheriting the functionality and styling of a parent theme. When you create a child theme, you specify the parent theme that you want to use as the basis for your child theme. WordPress loads the parent theme first, and then loads the child theme on top of it, allowing you to override any of the parent theme’s features or styles.

The child theme contains a style.css file that specifies the name and version of the child theme, as well as the reference to the parent theme. This file is used to load the styles of both the parent and child themes.

In addition to the style.css file, a child theme can also contain other files that override specific features or templates of the parent theme. For example, you can create a custom header.php file in your child theme to override the header template of the parent theme.

When WordPress is looking for a template file to use, it first checks to see if a corresponding file exists in the child theme. If it does, WordPress uses the file from the child theme instead of the file from the parent theme.

Why You Should Use WordPress Child Themes?

Below are some reasons why you should be using WordPress child themes:

1. Safe updates:

When you update the parent theme, any modifications you have made to the theme files will be lost. However, with a child theme, your modifications are kept separate from the parent theme, allowing you to update the parent theme without losing your changes.

2. Easy customization:

With a child theme, you can easily customize the appearance and functionality of your website without having to code everything from scratch.

3. Better organization:

By keeping your modifications in a separate child theme, you can keep your website files more organized and easier to manage.

4. Faster development:

Because you can inherit many of the features and styles of the parent theme, you can develop your website faster than if you were starting from scratch.

5. Efficient debugging:

If you encounter issues with your website, it is easier to debug a child theme than a modified parent theme, as the changes made in the child theme are typically isolated to a few specific files.

6. Consistency across websites:

If you manage multiple websites that use the same parent theme, you can create a single child theme with all of your customizations and easily apply it to all of your websites for consistent branding and functionality.

7. Improved security:

When you modify a parent theme, you run the risk of introducing security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. With a child theme, your modifications are kept separate, reducing the risk of introducing vulnerabilities.

8. Easy experimentation:

With a child theme, you can experiment with different customizations without affecting the main theme. This allows you to test new features and styles before applying them to your live website.

9. Compatibility:

When you create a child theme, you can ensure that your customizations are compatible with the parent theme. This ensures that your website will continue to function correctly even after updates to the parent theme.

10. Future-proofing:

If you ever decide to switch to a different parent theme, having a child theme makes the process much easier. Your customizations will be contained within the child theme and can be easily transferred to the new parent theme.

11. Community support:

Many WordPress developers create and distribute child themes for popular parent themes, providing a community of support and resources for users looking to customize their websites.

Considerations Before You Start Creating a Child Theme

1. Choose the Right Parent Theme:

Make sure that the parent theme you want to use is well-coded and frequently updated. This will ensure that your child theme remains compatible with future updates to the parent theme.

Related Post: How to Choose WordPress Themes? 

2. Assess the level of customization needed:

Determine how much customization is needed before creating a child theme. If only a few changes are needed, it may be easier to use a plugin or custom CSS instead.

3. Familiarize Yourself with WordPress Theme Hierarchy:

Before creating a child theme, it’s important to understand the WordPress theme hierarchy and how templates are loaded in the correct order.

4. Plan Out the Customization:

Plan out the customizations you want to make and create a list of the files you’ll need to modify in the child theme. This will make the process smoother and reduce the risk of errors.

5. Create a Local Development Environment:

Develop and test your child theme in a local environment before deploying it to your live website. This will allow you to catch any issues before they affect your live website.

6. Take a Backup of Your Website:

Always backup your website before making any changes to the theme files, including creating a child theme. This ensures that you can restore your website in case anything goes wrong.

So, taking the time to plan and prepare before creating a child theme will make the process smoother and reduce the risk of errors.

Ways to Create a Child Theme in WordPress

There are two main methods for creating a child theme in WordPress:

1. Creating a child theme using code in /wp-content/themes/

2. Creating a child theme using a plugin.

Let’s learn both methods step by step:

1. Creating a Child Theme Using Code

To create a child theme using code in /wp-content/themes/, follow these steps:

Step 1: Create a new folder

  • Log in to the control panel and go to the File Manager. 
  • In public_html > wp-content > themes directory for your child theme. Name the folder something unique and memorable, such as “MyTheme Child”

Step 2: Create a new style.css file

Next, create a new style.css file in the child theme folder. In this file, you’ll need to include some basic information about your child theme, including the theme name, description, and author.

Here’s an example of what your style.css file might look like:

Theme Name: MyTheme Child
Theme URI: https://tezhost.com/mytheme-child/
Description: Child theme for MyTheme
Author: TezHost
Author URI: https://tezhost.com/
Template: mytheme
Version: 1.0.0

Step 3: Create a new functions.php file

Next, create a new functions.php file in the child theme folder. In this file, you’ll need to include some basic code to enqueue your child theme’s stylesheet and any additional scripts or styles you want to add.

Here’s an example of what your functions.php file might look like:

<?php
function mytheme_enqueue_styles() {

$parent_style = ‘mytheme-style’; // This is the handle of the parent theme’s stylesheet

wp_enqueue_style( $parent_style, get_template_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’ );
wp_enqueue_style( ‘mytheme-child-style’,
get_stylesheet_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’,
array( $parent_style ),
wp_get_theme()->get(‘Version’)
);
}
add_action( ‘wp_enqueue_scripts’, ‘mytheme_enqueue_styles’ );
?>

Step 4: Checking the child theme 

  • Navigate to Appearance > Themes you should see the MyTheme Child.
  • You’ll need to click the Activate button to start using the child theme on your site.

If you find yourself struggling to modify the code for a different parent theme, it may be more convenient for you to opt for the plugin method instead.

2. Creating a Child Theme Using a Plugin

If you’re not comfortable editing code in WordPress files, you can use a plugin to create your child theme instead.

Here’s the complete process:

Step 1: Install and activate the Child Theme Configurator plugin
The Child Theme Configurator plugin is a popular plugin for creating child themes in WordPress. Install and activate the plugin from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Step2: Launch the Child Theme Configurator
Once the plugin is activated, you can launch it by going to Tools > Child Theme Configurator in the WordPress dashboard.

Step 3: Choose the parent theme
In the Child Theme Configurator, choose the parent theme you want to use for child theme. You can choose from any installed theme on your site.

Step 4: Customize your child theme
After selecting the parent theme, the Child Theme Configurator will generate a new child theme for you. You can customize it to your liking using the WordPress Customizer or by modifying template files directly.

Conclusion

Creating a WordPress child theme is a straightforward process that can save you a lot of headaches down the line. With a child theme, you can customize your website without affecting the original theme, making it easier to update your site and keep it secure. By following the step-by-step guide above, you can create your own WordPress child theme and start customizing your website today.

For more such informative guides head on to our Blogs sections!

TezHost Editorial

TezHost Editorial staff is a team of Marketing experts lead by Arif Wali

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