Making the Move: Understanding Lifesaving Society Programs, for Swimmers and Parents

Moving away from Canadian Red Cross swim and lifeguard programs is a big change. We're here to help you understand how Lifesaving Society programs compare to Canadian Red Cross Programs. 

While many programs have several components within them (such as how Red Cross Swim was made up of Swim Preschool, Swim Kids, and Swim School), the below chart shows a high-level comparison of Canadian Red Cross and Lifesaving Society programs. Keep scrolling for more information on Lifesaving Society Swim programs and transferring to them from Red Cross Swim. 

Canadian Red Cross Program

Lifesaving Society Equivalent

Red Cross Swim Swim for Life
Water Safety Instructor and Water Safety Instructor Trainer Swim for Life Instructor and Swim for Life Instructor Trainer
Lifeguard and Assistant Lifeguard National Lifeguard and Bronze Cross 
Assistant Lifeguard Instructor, Lifeguard Instructor, and Lifeguard Instructor Trainer Lifesaving Instructor, National Lifeguard Instructor, and National Lifeguard Instructor Trainer


Swim Transition Program Guide

Moving from one learn to swim program to another is a big change, and we get that! To help simplify the process we have developed a Program Guide to answer your questions. 

This guide includes information like:

  • An overview of Lifesaving Society learn to swim programs
  • Program and level descriptions
  • Skills At-A-Glance (an overview of the skills covered in each level)
  • Transition charts to guide registration when coming from Canadian Red Cross learn to swim programs

View the Program Guide!

Lifesaving Programs

Swimmers who have completed Swim Kids 8 or above move into the Lifesaving Program. Higher levels of the Lifesaving Program are also great for adults. As long as you're a strong swimmer it's never too late to work towards becoming a lifeguard!

The Lifesaving Program includes:

Canadian Swim Patrol Program

  • Rookie Patrol
  • Ranger Patrol
  • Star Patrol

Bronze Medal awards

  • Bronze Star
  • Bronze Medallion
  • Bronze Cross

National Lifeguard Service® (NL) awards

  • National Lifeguard - Pool
  • National Lifeguard - Water Park
  • National Lifeguard - Waterfront
  • National Lifeguard - Surf

Aside from entering the Lifesaving Program, swimmers may also be interested in joining local Lifeguard Clubs (Junior Lifeguard Clubs (JLC) or Senior Lifeguard Clubs (SLC)) where they can continually improve swimming and lifesaving skills and participate in Lifesaving Sport.

 Learn more about the Lifesaving Program


Parent and Tot Programs

Swim for Life Parent and Tot structures in-water interaction between parent/caregiver and child to stress the importance of play in developing water-positive attitudes and skills. 

Recommended Age: 4 months - 3 years

See the Parent and Tot At-a-Glance Program Chart on p.16 of the Swim for Life Program Guide.



Starfish Parent and Tot 1 (4-12 months)
Duck Parent and Tot 2 (12-24 months)
Sea Turtle Parent and Tot 3 (2-3 years)



Preschool Programs

Swim for Life Preschool ensures children become comfortable in the water and have fun developing a foundation of water skills.

Recommended Age: 3-5 years

See Preschool skills at a glance.



Sea Otter

Preschool 1 (if Sea Otter incomplete)

Preschool 2 (if Sea Otter complete) 


Preschool 1 (if Salamander incomplete)

Preschool 2 (if Salamander complete)


Preschool 2 (if Sunfish incomplete)

Preschool 3 (if Sunfish complete)


Preschool 4 (if Crocodile incomplete)

Preschool 5 (if Crocodile complete)


Preschool 5 (if Whale incomplete)

Swimmer 1 or 2 (if 5 years old)



Swimmer Programs

The Swimmer program uses in-water practice for swimmers of any ability to develop swimming strokes and skills.

Recommended Age: 5-12 years old

After completing the Swimmer program, next steps include:

  • Canadian Swim Patrol (Rookie, Ranger, Star)
  • Junior Lifeguard Club
  • Bronze Star/Medallion

See Swimmer skills at a glance.



Swim Kids 1

Swimmer 1 (if Swim Kids 1 incomplete)

Swimmer 2 (if Swim Kids 1 complete)

Swim Kids 2

Swimmer 2 (if Swim Kids 2 incomplete or complete)

Swim Kids 3

Swimmer 2 (if Swim Kids 3 incomplete)

Swimmer 3 (if Swim Kids 3 complete)

Swim Kids 4

Swimmer 3 (if Swim Kids 4 incomplete or complete)

Swim Kids 5

Swimmer 3 (if Swim Kids 5 incomplete)

Swimmer 4 (is Swim Kids 5 complete)

Swim Kids 6

Swimmer 4 (if Swim Kids 6 incomplete)

Swimmer 5 (if Swim Kids 6 complete)

Swim Kids 7

Swimmer 5 (if Swim Kids 7 incomplete)

Swimmer 6 (if Swim Kids 7 complete)

Swim Kids 8

Swimmer 6 (if Swim Kids 8 incomplete)

Rookie Patrol (if Swim Kids 8 complete)

Swim Kids 9

Rookie Patrol (if Swim Kids 9 incomplete or complete)

Swim Kids 10

Ranger or Star Patrol (if Swim Kids 10 incomplete)

Bronze Star (if Swim Kids 10 complete)




SwimAbilities® is geared towards swimmers with special needs. For SwimAbilities® programming caregivers are in the water providing one-on-focus under the direction of a certified instructor. 

Learn more about SwimAbilities®


Adult Programs

In addition to swimming programs geared towards youth, the Lifesaving Society also has programs aimed at adults. Swimming programs include Adult Swimmer and Fitness Swimmer.

Lifesaving and Leadership Programs are also perfect for adults! 

Adult Swimmer

The Adult Swimmer Program is for beginners or swimmers who want to improve their skills. Within the Adult Swimmer curriculum, participants set their own goals to develop water confidence and recognizable strokes.

See the Adult Swimmer At-a-Glance Program Chart on p.16 of the Swim for Life Program Guide.

Fitness Swimmer

The Fitness Swimmer Program is for swimmers of any age who want to improve their overall physical fitness in the water. Some of the skills covered include: use of pace clocks; stretches; workout design; and distance swimming. Fitness Swimmer provides a structured approach to improve physical fitness based on accepted training principles and practices.

See the Fitness Swimmer At-a-Glance Program Chart on p.16 of the Swim for Life Program Guide.