Evaluating Swimming Skills



Can your child swim? Use these challenges to find out.

These tests are fun, challenging, and rewarding, and are good tools for you to use to assess your child's swimming ability.  However, it is important to remember that a certificate hanging on the wall won't keep your child safe. Children require constant supervision in and around the water, and you need to reassess swimming ability every time your child enters the water.


Jump into deep water from the side of the pool. Recover to a relaxed back float and swim 15' on back. (Deep = deeper than the swimmer is tall.) This is the test I use to determine readiness to use the diving board or participate in a pool party.

Print a Take the Plunge certificate.

S.W.I.M. Model

Four components make up the basic skill of swimming. Work toward mastery of these four components before moving on to the advanced stroke techniques. 

  • Stabilize: ability to maintain body awareness and control (resistant to change, self-restoring)
  • Wend: ability to direct one's course, proceed and move about with purpose
  • Idle: ability to stop, relax, and rest without exertion (disengaged from the "load")
  • Measure: ability to calculate, judge, and make decisions while in the water


This challenge demonstrates a swimmer's ability to recover after an unexpected entry into the water. Jump from the one meter diving board fully clothed in top, bottom, and shoes. Recover to a relaxed back float for a count of five. Swim to the side and exit the pool unassisted. Practice swimming in the water while clothed before performing this challenge. You'll be surprised at how difficult it can be. We've nicknamed this challenge Walk the Plank.

Print a Walk the Plank certificate.


Endurance Challenge

Use this test to evaluate strength and lifesaving endurance. Complete a continuous 200 yard swim consisting of a 100 yard crawl stroke swim with body-roll breathing (no lifting of the head to breathe) followed by 100 yards of relaxed backstroke (any style).

Print an Endurance Challenge certificate.



Use to determine whether a child should be allowed to use a flotation toy. Swimmer sits on a raft or ring flotation toy that is located a minimum of 15 feet from the side of the pool. Adult tips the toy over "dumping" the swimmer into the water. The swimmer must recover to a relaxed back float for a count of five and then swim to the side and exit the pool unassisted.

Print a Dump Test certificate.

Stroke Proficiency Challenge

This test demonstrates stroke proficiency in the four competitive strokes. Complete a continuous 100 yard individual medley swim consisting of 25 yards each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and crawl stroke.  

Print a Stroke Proficiency Challenge certificate.

Face-Up First 500 Swim Challenge