Learning to swim is an important life skill

It’s fun, great for your health and puts you on a path to an active lifestyle.

New registration process for swimming lessons

We are offering more opportunities for swim lesson registration, starting as early as June 2. 

  • You can register for swim lessons 30 days in advance of the lesson start date at 10 am if you are a Burnaby resident, or 27 days in advance at 10 am if you are not.
  • For example, if you want to sign up for swim lessons that begin on July 2, you can register on June 2 at 10 am if you live in Burnaby, or on June 5 at 10 am if you live elsewhere.
  • For lessons that begin on August 12, Burnaby residents can register July 13 at 10 am and everyone else can register on July 16 at 10 am. 
  • Note: If you are in a current lesson set, your results will be posted by 10 am on Wednesday of the last week of the lesson set.

Visit WebReg to register. Questions? Please call your local recreation facility

Swim lessons have changed

The Canadian Red Cross is no longer offering swimming lessons and lifeguard programs to focus on increasing humanitarian demands in other areas. 

We’re excited to introduce the Lifesaving Society Swim for Life program. It will replace the Canadian Red Cross Swim Kids program. Burnaby has a long-standing relationship with the Lifesaving Society via water safety programs and is fully confident in the quality of their Swim for Life program. 

See the tables below to discover your child’s new swimming lesson level.

Reminder: One set at a time

Swimming lesson participants can only be registered for one set of lessons at a time. You may register your child for the next set of lessons only after the completion of the lesson set they are currently registered in. Your child may be withdrawn from a swimming program if registered in more than one lesson set. 

Parent & Tot

6 months to 3 years old with an adult
Prerequisite: None. Based on age.

Parent & Tot classes provide an opportunity for parents and children to enjoy in-water interaction in a fun and social setting. Focusing on the importance of play and developing water positive attitudes and skills, children gain valuable exposure to being in and around the water. Parents will learn to be Water Smart® to keep themselves and their child safe in any aquatic setting. Activities and progressions in Parent & Tot are based on developmental stages. Register at the appropriate level based on the age of the child

Parent & Tot 1 – Jellyfish
Parents and babies will explore the water together under the watchful eyes of their instructor. Parents learn how to swim safely with their infant in the pool through instruction of holds and supports. Infants will be introduced to getting their face wet, blowing bubbles and floating with the help of their caregiver.

Parent & Tot 2 – Goldfish
Instructors lead sessions helping parents learn how to play in the water safely with their child. With the support of their parent/caregiver, toddlers learn how to enter and exit the water, play games encouraging them to get their face wet and blow bubbles in the water, and develop floating and kicking skills.

Parent & Tot 3 – Seahorse 
Parents support their toddlers in becoming more independent in the water. Toddlers learn to safely enter the water wearing a PFD, and develop underwater skills such as submersion and opening their eyes underwater. Through songs and games, toddlers learn ‘starfish’ floats, ‘pencil’ floats and kicking skills in a fun and welcoming environment. 


3 to 5 years old

Preschool lessons give children a head start on learning how to swim. Children have fun while gaining foundational water skills and become comfortable in the water. Water Smart® education is incorporated into all Preschool levels to support children in learning how to keep themselves safe in and around the water. Once preschoolers turn 6 years old, please refer to the Equivalency Chart at the bottom of the page for the appropriate next level

Preschool 1 – Octopus 
This level transitions the preschooler to the care of the instructor. Preschoolers have fun learning to get in and out of the water assisted by their instructor. Playing games in a safe environment, they’ll learn how to put their face in the water, blow bubbles in the water, and how to float and glide.

Preschool 2 – Crab 
Preschoolers work on becoming more independent with their water skills, by learning how to safely jump into chest-deep water and how to swim wearing a PFD. Additional skills include submerging underwater, floating, gliding, and kicking with various buoyant aids.  

Preschool 3 – Orca 
Preschoolers will kick and glide their way through the water. Learning how to enter deep water safely wearing a PFD, they’ll explore submerging and exhaling underwater, retrieving objects underwater, and continue developing their floating, gliding and kicking skills.

Preschool 4 – Sea Lion 
Preschoolers gain some independence in deep water. Learning deep-water entries and treading water wearing a PFD, preschoolers become skilled at retrieving objects from the bottom of the pool in chest-deep water and performing front and side glide. Front crawl wearing a PFD is also introduced.

Preschool 5 - Narwhal
Preschoolers learn Swim to Survive® skills wearing a PFD. Front crawl and back crawl are introduced as well as interval fitness training. Preschoolers also learn how to tread water and perform vertical whip kick with a buoyant aid. Once complete, preschoolers can register in Swimmer 2.


6 to 14 years old

Swimmer lessons are a success-oriented learn to swim program for children 6-14 years old. There is a prominent focus on in-water swimming practice as swimmers learn fundamental strokes and skills, mastering them as they progress through the program. Swimmers also learn how to be safe in, on, and around the water through Water Smart® education incorporated into every level.

Swimmer 1 Intro
An introduction for beginner swimmers who are not yet comfortable in the water. Swimmers will learn how to open their eyes, exhale, and hold their breath underwater, assisted jumps, floats, glides and kicks.

Swimmer 1
Building the foundation of swimming skill development, beginner swimmers will gain confidence in the water as they learn to float and glide independently, and are introduced to jumping and treading in deep water in a PFD.

Swimmer 2
Swimmers will gain comfort in deeper water by jumping in, and learning their sideway entries wearing a PFD. They also learn how to tread water, develop kicking skills, and will be introduced to front crawl and back crawl.

Swimmer 3
Swimmers make a splash learning how to dive, and be challenged with the introduction to more difficult (but fun) skills such as in-water somersaults and handstands to develop weight-transfer skills. They’ll learn Swim to Survive® skills, whip kick on back and will further develop their front crawl and back crawl.

Swimmer 4
Moving from a beginner to intermediate swimming level, swimmers become better at diving, treading water, and swimming underwater. In addition to improving their front and back crawl, swimmers will be introduced to breaststroke, and learn the Swim to Survive® standard.

Swimmer 5
Swimmers master dives and swim in deep water. Swim to Survive® skills, breaststroke, front crawl, and back crawl are further developed, and eggbeater kick is introduced. Interval training and sprinting drills continue to challenge these swimmers.

Swimmer 6
Swimmers become proficient at deep water skills including stride entries and compact jumps. They’ll develop lifesaving kicks such as eggbeater and scissor kick. Breaststroke, front crawl, and back crawl are further developed. Head-up swims, interval training and a 300m workout develop strength and endurance.

Swimmer 7 - Rookie 
Laying the foundation of the Swim Patrol program, Rookie includes 4 main components: stroke refinement, fitness, first aid, and lifesaving. Stroke refinement is focused on front crawl, back crawl, and breaststroke. Fitness components include a 350 m workout and 100 m timed swim. Water proficiency skills include swimming with clothes, ready position, and feet-first/head-first surface dives.  Swimmers learn and demonstrate the ability to conduct a primary assessment and contacting EMS, rounded off with an introduction to lifesaving skills, including self-rescue techniques, victim recognition, and using throwing assists.

Swimmer 8 - Ranger 
Stroke refinement and underwater proficiency continues to be a focus in Ranger as it is critical for supporting swimmer fitness. Focus on enhancing capabilities in the water including stride entries, and underwater forward and backward somersaults. Swimmers learn lifesaving sport skills with a lifesaving stroke medley, timed object support and non-contact rescue with a buoyant aid. Swimmers can expect their fitness levels to increase as they further develop Eggbeater kick and work towards a 200 m timed swim. First aid focuses on unconscious victims and obstructed airway procedures.

Swimmer 9 - Star 
Preparing swimmers for the Bronze Star Award, this program challenges swimmers with a 300m timed swim, 600m workout and a 25m object carry. Strokes continue to be refined. Lifesaving skills include use of rescue aids, defense methods, victim removals and supporting a victim in shallow water. First aid focuses on treatment of bone or joint injuries and respiratory emergencies. Once complete, swimmers register into Bronze Star.

Please note: If you've completed lessons from another municipality or taken lessons that differ from Burnaby’s Swim for Life program (i.e. private or schoolboard lessons, swim club), please provide their report card prior to registration. You can visit our pool with their report card, email their report card to [email protected] or do a swim assessment so you can register in the right level. 

Questions and answers

The Lifesaving Society has been training Canadians to be lifesavers since 1896 in Canada and since 1911 in BC. Over 1.2 million Canadians take Lifesaving Society courses each year. They are a national volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization committed to the prevention of drowning and water-related injury.

As the Canadian Red Cross winds down its swim and lifeguard programming, they’re encouraging all water safety training partners to transition to the Lifesaving Society’s Swim for Life program.

Swim for Life has been offered across the country by the Lifesaving Society since 2007. 

Prior to this transition, the Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch), had an agreement that in BC, the Red Cross would only offer swim lessons and the Lifesaving Society would only offer lifesaving and lifeguarding courses.

No. The Red Cross Swim program will be retired at the end of 2022. All facilities will no longer be able to use the Red Cross Swim program after December 31, 2022, and will transition to the Lifesaving Society Swim for Life program. 

The Swim for Life program focuses on three strokes (front crawl, back crawl and breaststroke). These are the foundation strokes in any swimmer’s repertoire. Specialty strokes such as elementary backstroke will not be part of this new program. Focusing on fewer strokes allows for more practice time during swimming classes. The program asks swimmers to practice their strokes over short distances which allow the swimmer to focus on performing the skill correctly without getting too tired. 

The Swim for Life program contains Water Smart® messages in every level. 

Lifejackets or PFDs (personal floatation devices) are used by instructors to teach new skills. Using floatation aides as a teaching tool solves some of the most common problems that a swimmer has when they learn a new skill by allowing them to:  

  • breathe whenever they need 
  • focus on learning the new movement 
  • follow the feedback given by the instructor 
  • rest when they need to 
  • give themselves feedback on how well they are performing the new skill 

When your child feels ready, they can choose to try the skills without wearing a PFD with the instructor’s assistance. 

You are not going back a level. You are moving to a different program, into a class that best fits your skill level. Registration in Swim for Life is based on age, ability, skill and knowledge. Because no 2 swim programs are alike, they introduce different skills in different levels. This means that, while many programs use a number system for their levels, the numbers do not line up directly. 

Completing Preschool 4 or 5 gives your child the same skills taught in Swimmer 1. They may be ready to try Swimmer 2, especially if they're comfortable in deep water and have strong skills. Swimmer 1 is designed as an entry point into swimming lessons for school aged children who have little or no swimming experience. Preschoolers who have completed Preschool 4 or 5 have mastered glides and have a strong flutter kick, the foundations for learning front crawl and back crawl which are taught in Swimmer 2. 

We are offering 9 levels in the children swimming curriculum. The last 3 levels will incorporate Rookie, Ranger and Star programs. These levels introduce kids to first aid and lifesaving training. These courses develop the foundational skills that lead directly into Lifesaving Society programs certifying youths for future employment as lifeguards and swim instructors. 

The Swim for Life program recognizes and celebrates each child’s successes with a progress card and a participation badge. Your child will receive these recognition items from their instructor at the end of each session. The accomplishment record will also let you know which level to register in next.  

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