React Context Walkthrough

By Bernie FitzGerald •  Updated: 06/25/23 •  5 min read

Various approaches are available regarding managing state in React applications, such as prop drilling, Redux, or MobX. However, React Context has emerged as a powerful and efficient solution, particularly for large-scale applications.

In this blog post, we’ll explore React Context and how it simplifies state management, eliminates prop drilling, and provides a scalable solution for sharing data across components.

Understanding Context

React Context is a feature in React that allows sharing data across components without having to pass props at each level manually.

It eliminates the need for prop drilling, a process where props are passed through intermediary components to reach deeply nested components.

With React Context, you can create a context that holds shared data and wrap components with a Provider component to make the data available.

Components can then access the shared data using the Consumer component or the useContext hook, simplifying state management and promoting code reusability.

Context vs Prop Drilling

When comparing React Context to prop drilling, context offers a more elegant and efficient solution for sharing data across components.

Prop drilling involves manually passing props from parent to child components, even if intermediate components do not require the data. This can lead to cluttered code and decreased maintainability.

React Context, on the other hand, allows data to be accessed directly by components that need it without the need for intermediate prop passing. Here’s a simple example:

// Without React Context (prop drilling)
const ParentComponent = () => {
  const data = 'Hello';

  return <ChildComponent data={data} />;

const ChildComponent = ({ data }) => {
  return <GrandChildComponent data={data} />;

const GrandChildComponent = ({ data }) => {
  return <p>{data}</p>;

In the above example, the data prop is passed through the ParentComponent and ChildComponent even though only the GrandChildComponent needs it. This leads to unnecessary prop passing and can become cumbersome as the component hierarchy grows.

// With Context
const DataContext = React.createContext();

const ParentComponent = () => {
  const data = 'Hello';

  return (
    <DataContext.Provider value={data}>
      <ChildComponent />

const ChildComponent = () => {
  return <GrandChildComponent />;

const GrandChildComponent = () => {
  const data = useContext(DataContext);

  return <p>{data}</p>;

In this example, the data value is wrapped in a DataContext.Provider, and the GrandChildComponent directly accesses it using the useContext hook. This eliminates the need for prop drilling and allows components to access the shared data more efficiently.

Creating a Context

To create a context, you can use the createContext function from React. Let’s create a context for our site’s theme:

import React from 'react';

const ThemeContext = React.createContext();

export default ThemeContext;

In this example, we’ve created a new context called ThemeContext using the createContext function from React.

Accessing Context Data

We use the Consumer component or the hook to access the context data within a component. Let’s access the theme context in a functional component:

import React, { useContext } from 'react';
import ThemeContext from './ThemeContext';

const ThemeButton = () => {
  const theme = useContext(ThemeContext);

  return (
      style={{ background: theme.primaryColor, color: theme.secondaryColor }}
      Click me!

export default ThemeButton;

In this example, we’ve imported the useContext hook from React and used it to access the theme context. We can then use the theme object to style our button based on the theme settings.

Updating Context Data

To update the context data, we can use a reducer pattern. Let’s define a reducer function and the initial state for our theme context:

import React, { useReducer } from 'react';

const initialState = {
  primaryColor: 'blue',
  secondaryColor: 'white',

const reducer = (state, action) => {
  switch (action.type) {
    case 'CHANGE_THEME':
      return {
        primaryColor: action.payload.primaryColor,
        secondaryColor: action.payload.secondaryColor,
      return state;

const ThemeContext = React.createContext();

export const ThemeProvider = ({ children }) => {
  const [state, dispatch] = useReducer(reducer, initialState);

  const changeTheme = (primaryColor, secondaryColor) => {
      type: 'CHANGE_THEME',
      payload: { primaryColor, secondaryColor },

  return (
    <ThemeContext.Provider value={{ ...state, changeTheme }}>

export default ThemeContext;

In this example, we’ve defined a reducer function that handles the state updates for our theme context. We’ve also created a changeTheme function that dispatches an action to update the theme.

Nested Contexts

Context allows for nesting contexts, which is useful when managing multiple independent contexts within your application. Let’s create a user settings context for managing units:

import React from 'react';

const UserSettingsContext = React.createContext();

export default UserSettingsContext;

Now, you can nest this UserSettingsContext within the ThemeProvider component:

import React from 'react';
import { ThemeProvider } from './ThemeContext';
import UserSettingsContext from './UserSettingsContext';

const App = () => {
  return (
      <UserSettingsContext.Provider value={{ units: 'metric' }}>
        {/* App content */}

export default App;

By nesting contexts, you can manage different aspects of your application’s state separately while still having access to them within the relevant components.


React Context offers a simple yet powerful way to manage state in React applications, especially when prop drilling becomes cumbersome or Redux feels too heavyweight.

By understanding the concepts and best practices of React Context, developers can leverage its capabilities to simplify state management and improve the scalability of their applications.

Whether working on a small or large-scale React project, React Context can be valuable to your toolkit. Embrace its flexibility and convenience, and take advantage of its ability to streamline data sharing across your components.

Start implementing React Context in your applications today and experience the benefits of efficient state management.


If you’ve read this far, thank you. Feel free to check out the other React articles on bernieslearnings

Bernie FitzGerald

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