Truly, a most excellent idea when you're out of other options on a still-Winter morning. There are a few tips though, which I think can make the difference between good times in the world of commerce and a super-sized nightmare:
1) Go with a buddy. Trust me, some of the kids (and moms) at the mall are straight from Wal-Mart and you will need an ally to herd kids, confront bullies, and provide you a little friend time as well. Plus, if you're like me, you'll have at least one "zone out" moment and if the friend is good, she just might save your kiddos from disaster while you are contemplating wedges or pumps...or the meaning of life or something.
2) Do NOT bring snacks. Repeat DO NOT. Your kids won't play, they will just treat it as a buffet and every other kid in the place will want one too. Pretty soon, you will feel like you are feeding a herd of pigeons.
3) Sit near the entrance. Kids try to escape and it's better to be closer to the opening of the "pen." Not only can you better catch your own kids, but others as well, earning you appreciation and admiration from the masses, something every mommy craves and deserves!
4) Bring extra wipes and do not let those kids take off their socks 'cuz...eeeewwww! Seriously, I have seen a kid (thankfully not my own) pick a random booger off of the ground and put it into his mouth. I apologize, but you need to know the dirty truth. Don't avoid the place because of the germ factor, but be aware, very aware.