I inherited a site that didn't use a child theme, and now it needs to be updated. Can I take the original parent theme, change the style sheet header, copy it into the root, delete everything but wp-content and make it be the child theme? In the past, I've loaded any files I wanted from the parent into the child theme, and it is my understanding that the browser will prefer whatever's in the child theme.


That is 100% the approach you should take. You can even set up the child theme with a folder your-child-theme-name/ and then a style.css which uses the parent as the template:

template: your-parent-theme-folder

Then, you can either import the styles into this style.css (@import url('../parent-theme-folder/style.css')) or start from scratch as needed.

You'll also be able to pull in files you want to edit (like header.php or footer.php).

Additional reading:

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    thank you, I'm not sure you're addressing my question specifically, which is, can I literally rename the current parent as -child, and load up a fresh, updated copy of the parent. To simplify I would remove anything from now what is the child that wasn't altered originally. i was just wondering if anyone had done that. – user3106358 Apr 24 '20 at 0:41
  • My apologies, I completely missed the point of your question! You are absolutely correct, you can do that. Again, my apologies for confusing issues here. – Tom Apr 24 '20 at 13:42
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    no problem and thanks! – user3106358 Apr 24 '20 at 17:08
  • When did child themes stop becoming best practice? I'm trying to brush up on the last 9 years. – joelhaus Jul 27 '20 at 14:09

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