What Is a Child Theme? How to Use One on WordPress.com

What is a child theme? If you’re on the WordPress.com Business or eCommerce plans, a child theme can help you modify the underlying code of your website’s theme, safely and effectively.

Let’s discuss what’s going on under the hood with a child theme, the benefits of using one, and how to create a child theme for your WordPress.com website.

What is a child theme?

A child theme is a WordPress.com theme that takes its functionality and styling from another theme on your site — the parent theme. You can build a child theme on the foundation of the parent theme according to your needs. You could modify its appearance, add new functionality, and more.

When you use a child theme, you’ll have both the parent theme and the child theme installed on your WordPress.com site. You’ll make the child theme your site’s active theme, but it will pull its basic code from the parent theme. In general, if you want to modify the underlying code of your WordPress.com site’s theme, you should use a child theme to do so.

However, a child theme is not always the right route to make changes to your site. For example, if you have a WordPress.com Premium plan and you want to add custom CSS to your site, you can use the CSS feature in the Customizer.

Similarly, if you’d like to add new functionality with your Business plan, you may be able to install a new plugin instead of editing your theme’s underlying code.

The benefits of using a child theme on WordPress.com

There are a few benefits of using a child theme, rather than writing your own theme from scratch or directly editing your parent theme’s code.

First, using a child theme helps you save time and effort. Instead of designing a theme from scratch, you can find a parent theme that you like and then use your child theme to tweak that foundation as needed.

Second, a child theme helps you organize and manage your changes because they’re collected in one spot (the child theme), not mixed in with the code of the parent theme.

Finally, a child theme protects your changes from being overwritten if you ever update the parent theme. With all of your changes safely stored in a child theme, you can always install the latest version of the parent theme without losing your work.

How to create a child theme

To create a child theme for your WordPress.com site, you’ll need to be on the Business or e-commerce plans.

If you are, you can either use a plugin like Child Theme Configurator, or you can manually create a child theme.

Get started with a child theme today

Use a child theme to safely modify the underlying code of your site’s theme.

The theme will inherit its base code from your selected parent theme. Then, you can safely make your changes in the child theme, which allows you to access your changes and update the parent theme at any time.

In the end, though using a child theme is a more advanced approach that requires some knowledge of PHP and HTML, it gives you the power to fully customize your WordPress.com site.

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