How to setup a WordPress Child Theme

Andrew Tuzson – Founder / CEO

“Whoa, child theme? Parent theme? I just wanted to use a specific WordPress theme and be on my way. Why can’t I do that?”

Ok, let’s clear the air. If you are looking for a plug and play experience for your basic WordPress site, you can absolutely use a theme’s install package right out of the box. However, if you are seeking more from your WordPress experience, it is crucial to understand what a child theme is and when to employ one.

What is a Child Theme?

Great question, padawan. A child theme is a them that inherits its functionality and styling from another theme. It inherits these characteristics from, you guessed it, the parent. The concept of a child theme is one that allows you to modify, and add or remove functionality of the parent theme without directly making modifications to the parent theme. While that’s a mouthful, the gist is the parent theme stays intact, while all of the changes are happening in the child theme.

Why use a Child Theme?

Another great questions; you’re on fire today. One of the primary reasons for employing a child theme is to safeguard your modifications and functionality from an update. Should you modify a parent theme, without the use of a child theme, your modification efforts will disappear the moment that you update WordPress.

WordPress themes are compiled from droves of different types of files. A typical build is made up of HTML, CSS, Javascript, php, jQuery, images, and more. Have you ever had a hard time tracking down a recent change? Maybe you have a remote team member and you’re unsure of what update broke the build. Child themes also provide you with easy access to changes that you’ve made and every modification will be conveniently housed within the child theme’s folder. Isn’t that nice?

How to setup a Child Theme

Ok, there are several ways to do this. While the long hand approach is super interesting and you feel like a wizard when your code works, I am going to show you the step by step approach to using a nifty little plugin called “One-Click Child Theme.” I’ve used many plugins that will help you along with this process and my presence has always been “One-Click Child Theme.” It’s super easy and user-friendly, as you’re about to see.

Step 1 is to make sure that you have your WordPress theme installed and activated. Your child theme is essentially going to become a clone of your parent, so this is an important step. Do achieve this, you will need to navigate to Appearance -> Themes and either select a theme through the marketplace of upload a WordPress of your choice. Once you have confirmed that your theme has been installed and activated, you’re all set for Step 2.

Step 2 is to install our new friend, “One-Click Child Theme.” To pull this off, navigate to Plugins within the WordPress Dashboard. This will dump you into the screen that shows you all of your installed WordPress plugins. Click the “Add New” button. You will now be able to query the marketplace for your plugin of choice. Search for “One-Click Child Theme” and patiently await the results.

Step 3 is to install One-Click Child Theme. You can do this from the query results page. You can also activate the plugin directly from this page once the install has completed. You must install and activate the plugin to use the child theme features. Once you have that completed, you’re ready for the last step.

Step 4 requires that you navigate to Appearance -> Child Theme. This screen will present you with an overview of the child theme settings after you complete the setup. You will need to name the child theme, add notes to your hearts desire, and assign the child theme to a user (I typically assign the child theme to the primary admin). Once you have these fields filled out, click “Create Child.” You can now navigate to Appearance -> Themes to confirm that your child theme is the active clone of its parent. And, voila! You have an active child theme and you’re ready to rock.