For cats, play is all in a day's work. A cat is never too old or too lazy to hunt, and playing with toys mimics hunting behavior. To encourage your cat to play, you just need the right toys, or interesting "prey."
So that's why all those cute bat and swat toys never leave the toy basket. To a cat, they're just so many dispatched mice. It's no fun to play with something that's no longer alive, and a mouse that's been lying around for a while isn't good to eat, either.
To cats, the best toys have a human on one end. Belle and Ginger love teasers with feather poufs. Everyone here loves the Feline Flyer and Da Bird. But you don't need to invest in wand toys. Even a long shoelace will work.
To encourage your cat to play, try to make the toy mimic a mouse or bird. Make it swoop and soar overhead or zigzag along the floor, hopping and skipping and sometimes changing direction.
If your cat is old and doesn't see as well as he used to, he'll have more fun with toys like Da Bird, which has large Guinea feathers to pounce on and chase. If your cat is a couch potato, encourage him to play by dragging the toy (or shoelace) across the sofa. He will get up!
Oh, and about those bat and swat toys. Your cat will play with them if you bring them back to life by dangling them in front of him or gently tossing them across the floor. When I toss a crinkle ball for Boccelli, he'll play soccer with it for what seems like hours. You can revive old toys with catnip spray or by "marinating" them in a container of catnip, too.
What is your cat's favorite toy? Mine love tissue paper sprinkled with catnip, bottle caps, paper supermarket bags and, of course, their Yeowww! Catnip Pollack Fish. We have lots of those!