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All the Basics of Using Genesis 2 – Part 2 – Understanding how Child Themes Work in Genesis 2

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In my discussion of the benefits of Genesis 2 I’ve thrown out this word “child themes”. Most of you know what that means but for those of you who are new to WordPress and Genesis, a child theme is a theme that requires another theme to operate.

Child Themes Modify A Parent Theme

Child Themes build on or modify the parent theme’s functionality and appearance. They need a parent theme to work and Child Themes specifically modify both the appearance and the functionality of the parent theme.

Historically, child themes were a way of making sort of minor CSS changes to the appearance of your site without changing the core theme files. So you’d create a child theme with the CSS file, put all your CSS changes in it and then that would be a child theme. Making it essentially just a customization layer sitting on top of the parent theme.

Modify Style And Functionality

But in current practice with Genesis, Genesis Child Themes are really entirely new themes. They have their own templates, they have their own functions files, they have their own special functionality as well as their own custom CSS.

And these child themes are built off of built-in functionality in the Genesis core. So they’re not the typical stylistic changes that were historically what you meant by a child theme, they are full blown functional extensions of the Genesis theme.

The Relationship Between Parent and Child Themes

In order to use them properly though, you need to understand the relationship between parent and child themes. The way it works is that when WordPress is working to render a page, it looks to the child theme to see if the child theme has instructions on what to do in that situation and if it doesn’t then it looks to the parent theme. This is why both child and parent need to be used together and why they don’t stand alone.

Using Genesis Without a Child Theme

However, you can use Genesis without a child theme because Genesis itself is fully functional without a child theme but it has a very minimal style and offers you very few options for changing that style.

Genesis is really designed and intended to be used with a child theme. They don’t imagine that most people are going to use it alone because of the minimal styling although for designers it maybe the right place to start and then create custom CSS. But for most folks, if they’re using Genesis they’re using it with a child theme.

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