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How to Add Custom Items to Specific WordPress Menus

WordPress menus are freaking awesome. The drag drop interface makes it really easy for WordPress theme developers and the users alike. In the past we have shown you how to add custom menu in WordPress along with how to style a custom menu. One thing that is limited on the visual interface of menus is that you can only add links (pages, category, or custom links). What if you want to add a custom item to your WordPress menus? Maybe you want to add a search bar, or log in/out link, today’s date, or anything else in a WordPress menu. Just because there is no visual interface, does not mean it is not possible. In this article, we will show you how you can utilize the wp_nav_menu_items hook to add custom items to all or specific WordPress menus.

Note: this tutorial is intended for WordPress theme developers, so it is expected that you know basic html/css and a fair understanding of how WordPress themes work.

Obviously, you need to have custom menu enabled in your themes before you can proceed any further.

Lets start with the basics. We need to add our own filter into wp_nav_menu_items hook. An example would look like this:

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_items', 'your_custom_menu_item', 10, 2 );
function your_custom_menu_item ( $items, $args ) {
    if (is_single() && $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li>Show whatever</li>';
    return $items;

Now as you can see, you can use the conditional statements along with the argument theme_location. This allows you to target a specific menu location with any condition you want. If you don’t want the conditional statement, you don’t have to use it. Just add it to a specific menu location or vice versa.

Now that you have seen a basic example, let us show you some specific examples of how this would work.

Adding Log in/out links to a Specific WordPress Menu

If you want to give your users the ability to log in/out, then one place you can add the links is in your custom menu. The snippet below will show log in/out links to your users appropriately on the menu location: primary. You can change the menu location if you want.

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_items', 'add_loginout_link', 10, 2 );
function add_loginout_link( $items, $args ) {
    if (is_user_logged_in() && $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li><a href="'. wp_logout_url() .'">Log Out</a></li>';
    elseif (!is_user_logged_in() && $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li><a href="'. site_url('wp-login.php') .'">Log In</a></li>';
    return $items;

Adding a Search Bar to a Specific Menu

Want to add a search bar to a specific menu? Well look no further. You can do so by pasting the following snippet:

add_filter('wp_nav_menu_items','add_search_box_to_menu', 10, 2);
function add_search_box_to_menu( $items, $args ) {
    if( $args->theme_location == 'primary' )
        return $items."<li class='menu-header-search'><form action='' id='searchform' method='get'><input type='text' name='s' id='s' placeholder='Search'></form></li>";

    return $items;

Adding Today’s Date to a Specific WordPress Menu

The snippet below will add today’s date to your WordPress menu. You can use our Today’s Date manual to tweak the code if you want.

add_filter('wp_nav_menu_items','add_todaysdate_in_menu', 10, 2);
function add_todaysdate_in_menu( $items, $args ) {
    if( $args->theme_location == 'primary')  {
		$todaysdate = date('l jS F Y');
        $items .=  '<li>' . $todaysdate .  '</li>';

    return $items;

We hope this article will allow developers to expand the functionality of their themes.

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64 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Hello,
    thanks a lot for that code. Is there a way to reorder the MENU? For example I want to have the Log in Log out button at first in the MENU. Just for an example.

    • For the moment with this code, we do not have a simple method for reordering where the additions are placed compared to the menu items at the moment.


    • I’m sure this is too late for Denis! But in case anyone else wants their menu item to come FIRST in the list of menu items, rather than LAST, here’s an example of code I’ve used for this purpose:

      add_filter( ‘wp_nav_menu_items’, ‘your_custom_menu_item’, 10, 2 );
      function your_custom_menu_item ( $items, $args ) {
      if (is_single() && $args->theme_location == ‘primary’) {
      $oldItems = $items;
      $items = ‘Show whatever’;
      $items .= $oldItems;
      return $items;

  2. Is there a way to have an entry on your menu bar set to appear at a certain time and another item set to expire?

    • Unless I hear otherwise, we do not have a recommended time based conditional display that we would recommend.


  3. Hi,

    How can I add a search form at the beginning of the menu items list?



    PS: big fan of your tuts :)

  4. This is great. But would it be possible to add a menu within a menu?
    I want to append a language menu to my primary menu.
    I get the language menu on the page but not in the desired place.

    instead of

  5. Does this code still work? Not seeing anything on my menu, even just using the basic function with text. Not using any special type of menu, just ‘X’ & child theme.

    • never-mind, sorry just read this: “Obviously, you need to have custom menu enabled in your themes before you can proceed any further.”

      • OK so I was still having the problem even though my menu was custom, and messed around until I removed the condition. (IF), once I did that it displayed on all pages including homepage.

        `add_filter( ‘wp_nav_menu_items’, ‘your_custom_menu_item’, 10, 2 );
        function your_custom_menu_item ( $items, $args ) {
        $items .= ‘Show whatever’;
        return $items;

    • 10 specifies the order in which the functions associated with a particular action are executed. Lower numbers correspond with earlier execution, and functions with the same priority are executed in the order in which they were added to the action.

      2 is for the number of arguments the function accepts.


  6. This is an awesome, straight-to-the point tutorial. I want an item with today’s date (“headlines | DATE”) in one of my menus.

    I didn’t expect the first posting I found to solve my problem :) thx guys.

  7. works but (lol) for my situation I want to add “Search” to the primary header as if it were just another item that got checked in


    Everything I’ve seen creates a whole new…what is it a div…(?)

    that adds a whole new row to the header instead of p[lacing the form in the same row as ABOUT, etc. items in the primary navigation edit window.

    AND take the css assigned to the navigation bar.

  8. I really liked the post, so useful. However lets say I want to add a login and logout link in the footer with and if condition

  9. Related question: how to add a menu item based on a specific user role?
    Say I have a custom user role called “Student” and I would like to add an item to the menu only when the user has the role of “Student”?

    • I’d like to know the same thing. Anyone have an answer on how to add it in a certain submenu?

  10. Thank you for the How To!

    To be honest I don’t understand how you call the function.

    Especially I am missing a mention what arguments you call the functions with i.e. what wp variables to hand over as $items and $args.

    Could you please detail for a wp-beginner?

    Thank you,


  11. Hello,
    How can I add the following classes active and current-menu-item and the id menu-item-id ?

  12. In your examples, you add items to the primary menu (theme_location == ‘primary’).

    How would I add an item in a specific menu in widget area? Where do I get the theme_location?

  13. Hi! I used your tutorial to put a picture as a logo overlapping the menu bar. All is fine but this specific menu has a hover option that makes the color white… So when i hover the mouse on the logo, it also hovers the link which kind of ruins the aspect of the page.

    This is my code:

    if( $args->theme_location == ‘primary’ )
    return ““.$items;

    How can I hide the a href on the page and just display the image with link?

    Thanks in advance

  14. Hi, I think your code is close to what I’m looking for, but I’m trying to figure out how i can customize it to do what I’m trying to do!

    What I am trying to do is create a menu item with dropdown list of authors? any idea how i can accomplish that?

    Thanks so much!

  15. Thanks this was very helpfull,

    However, out of curiosity, I can’t find this valuable filter hook: “‘wp_nav_menu_items” , I mean where in WP core files is this being called ??

    Thanks much !!

  16. How can I place it in front of the first menu item? Otherwise great tutorial!

    Andor Nagy

    • add_filter( ‘wp_nav_menu_items’, ‘your_custom_menu_item’, 10, 2 );

      function your_custom_menu_item ( $items, $args ) {

      $custom = ‘Show whatever’;

      $items = $custom.$items;

      return $items;


      • I added the following to my theme’s functions.php but the search box doesn’t show up like I would expect. Any suggestions?

        add_filter(‘wp_nav_menu_items’,’add_search_box_to_menu’, 10, 2);
        function add_search_box_to_menu( $items, $args ) {
        if( $args->theme_location == ‘header_extras_inner’ )
        return $items.””;

        return $items;

  17. Sorry to be coming into this discussion so late

    I’ve tried the search form part and it works great— thank you! I’m having problems styling it though, for some reason. No matter what I do the placeholder text in the field is gray. I’ve looked at the cascading of the styles and messed with so many things— I can change the background color for example, but no luck in making the text black, so the design continuity of the menu is somewhat compromised. My site is if you care to have a look. Cheers

    • For placeholder text, you have to do something like this:

      ::-webkit-input-placeholder {
         color: red;
      :-moz-placeholder { /* Firefox 18- */
         color: red;  
      ::-moz-placeholder {  /* Firefox 19+ */
         color: red;  
      :-ms-input-placeholder {  
         color: red;  


  18. Hi,

    very interesting!
    I added a custom link, but is it possible to add it in a certain position inside the menu? Like “after the first menu item”.


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