Here’s the great thing about babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and playing - it’s what they do! There’s no learning curve involved on “how” to play; give a baby a toy, and they will feel it, turn it, maybe even taste it. They’re like little scientists in the making!
The best way to play is simply to give your babies lots of unstructured free time. Let them explore toys independently, or provide a little “added value” by introducing vocabulary or new concepts while they play. Babies and young toddlers will learn simply by listening to you talk about their toys. Start simple: describe the toy you’re playing with, and explain what it is for. “This is your soft, colorful ball. We can roll it together!” (However, if they decide to throw the ball instead of roll it – let them! That’s where the “unstructured” and experimental part comes in!)
As your little one gets older, their play with that same toy might look completely different. Maybe they’re rolling that ball to try to knock over makeshift bowling pins, or making up a completely imaginary story about a UFO (aka that same ball). You can still contribute to their play by adding details about that soft, colorful ball – maybe now is the time to introduce the concept of a sphere, or use different descriptors like “squishy” or “malleable.” Remember that this is unstructured play, though, so don’t try to change their story – your little one is leading the play and the storytelling.