TRENTON A bill that would require grade school students to get at least 20 minutes of recess a day was approved by the Assembly on Thursday.

If it wins full legislative approval, the law would apply to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. If possible, recess would be held outdoors.

"In addition to giving children time to recharge during the school day, recess allows students to develop their social skills and get some physical activity," said Assemblyman Joseph A. Lagana (D., Bergen), a sponsor of the bill.

Support of the legislation was spurred by concerns about youth obesity as well as more children developing cardiovascular risk factors and Type 2 diabetes. Childhood experts have also cited recess as an interpersonal bridge.

"For schoolchildren, particularly the youngest among them, having an unstructured period of time to relax and interact with peers is more than just playtime," said Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D., Essex). "The interpersonal skills that students cultivate during recess are essential to their social development."

The Senate approved an earlier version of the bill but must now approve an amended version. - Rita Giordano