Lifesaving Society Swimming Programs

Program Description Pre-requisite(s)
Swim to Survive®

Swim to Survive® is different than swimming lessons and not a replacement for them. Swim to Survive® teaches just the essentials needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water - an important first step to being safe around water. The Swim to Survive® program’s flexible and simple design makes it ideal for camps, schools and youth groups. Swim to Survive® can meet even the tightest time frames and budgets. Use Swim to Survive® for:

• Basic survival training for every family member;

• Meeting educational curriculum requirements;

• Workplace safety training;

• Youth group recreational and training needs;

• Screening for outdoor activities such as canoeing and boating; and

• Programming at your community pool.

Basic swimming ability is a requirement of any meaningful attempt to eliminate drowning in Canada. Swim to Survive® defines the minimum swim skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. Because most drownings occur close to safety and most victims had no intention of going into the water, Swim to Survive® focuses on basic survival skills performed as a sequence of three skills:

  1. ROLL into deep water
  2. TREAD water for one minute
  3. SWIM 50 metres

No specialized certification is required to deliver this program. Although candidate recognition materials are available, it is not a requirement so Swim to Survive® can be absolutely free for you to deliver!

Prerequisite(s): None
SwimAbilities® SwimAbilities® is a learn to swim program geared for children ages 3 to 16, with special needs, who need additional support to develop fundamental physical literacy skills and safety routines for aquatic activities. SwimAbilities® assists children and their parents in increasing safety, independence, and enjoyment in and around the water. SwimAbilities® provide lessons where parent/caregiver support in the water allows for one-on-one focus with each child under the direction of a certified instructor. Children may begin SwimAbilities® at any level and may continue in swim programs when they are comfortable doing so. Children requiring continued support can return to SwimAbilities® lessons as required. Prerequisites: 3 – 16 years old (recommended)
Swim for Life®

Swim for Life® is a comprehensive swim instruction program that focuses on the acquisition and development of fundamental swim strokes and skills for learners of all ages and abilities. Learning Swim to Survive® skills and achieving the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive® Standard are key foundations of the Swim for Life® Program. Swim for Life® is accessible, flexible, success-oriented and fun. Instructors ensure swimmers get lots of in-water practice in every lesson. Swim for Life® flows seamlessly into the Canadian Swim Patrol program and then into the Society’s lifesaving and vocational training awards, providing a complete, coherent, single-source program of integrated swimming and lifesaving instruction. Water Smart® Education As an integral part of the Swim for Life® Program, Water Smart® education provides information and experiences that helps participants make safe choices when in, on and around water and ice. Water Smart® Education is available to all and focuses on learning and does not include evaluation; participation is all that is required. The Society provides instructors with a variety of tools to make this drowning and injury prevention education last a lifetime.

Parent & Tot

The Parent & Tot Program structures in-water interaction between parent and child to stress the importance of play in developing water-positive attitudes and skills. Activities and progressions are based on child development, so parents register in the level appropriate for their child’s age. Lifesaving Society Water Smart® education complement skill learning. 

To see a list of skills taught in the Parent & Tot program check out the: At-a-glance Parent & Tot Program Chart

Prerequisite(s): 4 months - 3 years old (recommended)

The Preschool Program gives children a head start on learning to swim. Preschool Programs develop fundamental physical literacy skills for aquatic activities. In our preschool progressions we work to ensure 3 - 5 year olds become comfortable in the water and have fun developing a foundation of water skills. We incorporate Lifesaving Society Water Smart® education in all Preschool levels.

To see a list of skills taught in the Preschool program check out the At-a-glance Preschool Program Chart

Prerequisite(s): 3-5 years old (recommended)

The Swimmer Program makes sure children learn the fundamental physical literacy skills for aquatic activities. Progressions accommodate 5 - 12 year olds including beginners and swimmers who want to build on the basics. Lots of in-water practice develops solid swimming strokes and skills. Water Smart® education is part of every level. Next Step ... Canadian Swim Patrol | Junior Lifeguard Club | Bronze Star

To see a list of skills taught in the Swimmer program check out the: At-a-glance Swimmer Program Chart

Prerequisite(s): 5-12 years old (recommended)
Adult Swimmer

The Adult Swimmer Program is for beginners who may be just starting out or swimmers who just want help with their strokes. Within the Adult Swimmer curriculum, participants set their own goals to develop water confidence and smooth recognizable strokes. Water Smart® education is part of all levels. Instructors should be prepared to adapt these items and awards to accommodate the needs of adult learners and provide the flexibility for them to select the skills they want to learn to achieve their personal swimming goals.

Looking for more? 
Take our Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross and National Lifeguard programs to become a National Lifeguard, or become a Lifesaving and/or Swim Instructor.

To see a list of skills taught in the Adult Swimmer program check out the: At-a-glance Adult Program Chart

Prerequisite(s): None
Fitness Swimmer

The Fitness Swimmer Program is for swimmers of any age who want to improve their overall physical fitness in the water. Fitness Swimmer provides a structured approach to improve physical fitness based on accepted training principles and practices including interval training. Participants set their own goals.

To see a list of skills taught in the Fitness Swimmer program check out the: At-a-glance Fitness Program Chart

Prerequisite(s): None

Transition to Swim for Life® Program

Making the change to Swim for Life® from another organization's swimming lesson program?

The following transition charts will help you determine what Swim for Life level to enroll in:

Transferring from Transition Chart Red Cross to Swim for Life (pdf)

Transferring from YMCA to Swim For Life Transition Chart (pdf)

Transferring from I Can Swim to Swim for Life Transition Chart (pdf)


Swim for Life®- Strokes and Skills Video

Strokes & Skills is designed to help Swim Instructors teach and evaluate kids in the Swim for Life program. The 24 minute video features real kids in 8 segments covering:

  • Front Crawl, Back Crawl, Breaststroke
  • Entries, Dives, Movement Skills, Kicks, and Fitness

Strokes & Skills brings the Swim for Life Award Guide to real life. Real kids demonstrate stroke and skill mechanics that meet the Must Sees across different levels. Underwater views, slow motion, freeze frame, colorful animation and instant replace mean you can see Must Sees like you've never seen them before. 

Sneak peek at the Strokes & Skills Video.

Order your copy of the video online at the SHOP


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