WordPress Child Themes: What They Are and Why They Matter


Picture of Tim Jones, CEO + Founder
Written by Tim Jones, CEO + Founder

According to data analyzed from Built With, over 30 million websites are powered by WordPress. With a vast number of sites built on this open-source platform, making your brand stand out means serious business.

But thanks to WordPress themes, you can still stand out and display your unique brand to the world. WordPress themes allow you to enhance your website's user experience (UX) and build a solid online presence.


WordPress Themes

WordPress themes are collections of files that dictate the overall appearance of your website or blog. Using themes, you can modify things as minute as your hyperlink colors or as vast as your website's layout. Our detailed blog will overview WordPress child themes: what they are and why they matter.


What is a WordPress Child Theme?

According to WordPress Codex, a child theme is a sub-theme that inherits all the features, style, and functionality of its parent theme. A child theme is the safest and easiest way to modify an existing theme. With a WordPress child theme, you don't have to worry about anything; even when the parent theme gets updated, changes in the child theme save and apply to the updated version.


How Are Child and Parent Themes Related?

As their name suggests, WordPress child themes are closely related to their parents. A parent theme has all the "stuff" needed to be fully functional. On the other hand, a child theme can either add, modify, or overwrite the "stuff." Using a child theme enables you to make changes or add to the functionality of the parent theme.

In other words, a WordPress child theme requires a parent theme, is dependent on it, but doesn't affect it.


Why Are Parent Themes Important?

A parent theme is considered a complete theme, meaning it has all the required WordPress template files and assets for the theme to work. All themes excluding child themes are considered parent themes.


Why are Child Themes Important?

If you need to add any functionality design or features to a theme, a child theme is the best way to do so. It allows you to change the parent theme's style and modify or add features without the risk of causing significant damage to your site or losing all your hard work in case of an update.


How is A Child Theme Different from A Parent Theme?

When to use a parent theme

If you make any changes to the parent theme, these changes will be lost if the theme updates. On the contrary, if you change a child theme (which inherits everything from the parent), the changes are never lost if the parent theme updates. A WordPress theme includes all the necessary PHP files, CSS files, and JS files necessary for the operation of a website.

On the other hand, a WordPress child theme always needs the parent theme and a single file called style.css. This theme is not functional on its own.


When to Use a Child Theme

If you are a web developer learning to create your WordPress themes, consider using a child theme. It will help streamline your workflow and significantly lower your development time. 

If you are a user, it's recommended only to use child themes if:

  • You often find yourself adding new functions to your parent theme's functions.php file. 

  • You are modifying its style.css file.


Advantages of Using a Child Theme

Easy to Modify

A child theme gives you an excellent platform where you can make developments faster. You can access fantastic flexibility with a good parent theme without necessarily coding everything from scratch.

With a child theme, you can modify specific elements of your website without managing other template files. Also, child themes help you expand and enhance your website's functionality, giving your website a different perspective.


Keep Changes After Update

In most cases, updating a WordPress theme will erase any customization or changes to your website. And that means you will have to recode it all over again.

Using a child theme cushions you from such setbacks. You can customize the child theme and then update the parent theme. All the updates and new features will automatically apply to the child theme, but none of the customizations will be affected.


Easy to Update

Updates with child themes are seamless and safe. You can edit your child theme without altering the parent's theme.

If the parent theme has to update, your specific modifications save on your child theme, so you don't have to worry about losing anything.


Disadvantages of Using a Child Theme

As good as a child theme might sound, using one does have a few downsides. These include:


Time to Learn

One of the challenges of using child themes is the initial learning time required. You will need to understand how the original theme operates, which may be time consuming. 

In addition, different frameworks have different aspects, so you will need to learn a lot to get the most out of child themes. On the bright side, once you have studied how the processes work, applying and expanding them comes naturally and easily. 



Another challenge of using child themes is the dependency on parent themes. The problem here comes when the developer loses interest in your parent theme. Or in other instances, the developer may completely alter or remove some features you found pretty valuable.

Such changes will have a significant negative impact on your child theme. Nevertheless, another developer can still pick up the theme from where someone else left off because the WordPress community is open source and GPL. 


Great Examples of Child Themes

There are plenty of WordPress child themes available, but some of the best include: 


Travelador is a customizable, aesthetic, and responsive WordPress child theme for the SiteOrigin builder and LayerWP framework. The theme's multipurpose layout, responsive design, and several header styles allow it to fit a wide range of website niches.



Outfit is a premium WordPress child theme built using the free WP site builder, Layers. It has an easy-to-customize structure, a fully responsive layout, and unlimited colors, making it an excellent option for picking a premium WordPress child theme.



Manual is an Education, Documentation, and Knowledge Base WordPress theme. It features a child theme to help get your website up and running with minimum fuss. 

You can use this theme to create and publish documentation easily; build user guides, help sites, wikis, and forums; and so much more. It also integrates WooCommerce, and what's more, the theme is speed optimized.



SaaSland is a versatile WordPress theme for software-as-a-service start-up companies. SaaSland is a fully responsive collection of themes and includes child themes and a one-page demo to help you find your way around. It is also fully WooCommerce and Gutenberg compatible.



Axiom is a good-looking, portfolio-themed WordPress theme built for the LayersWP framework. It has a pixel-perfect design and an emphasis on typography, allowing you to show off your latest videos and photos using a responsive portfolio grid.
It also comes with commercial plugins, WooCommerce support, and a one-click demo install to help you supercharge your website and take it to the next level.


We Are Eternal Works! 

Eternal Works is a branding and digital marketing agency in Virginia Beach, VA. Our specialty areas include digital marketing, web design, branding, inbound marketing, growth-driven design, and more.

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