I used to do this activity with my son A LOT. Like most three year old boys he was active, and he needed to have something to think about all the time. It was exhausting and mostly fun. My daughter is much more placid. She is happy with her Play-Doh for hours but she still enjoys this activity.
Now, here’s the crux, mostly we use Thomas the Tank Engine, the stories are a family favourite and we have a big stash of Thomas railway track pieces and trains. The first step is obviously building your track. This takes time and can be as complicated or simple as you want. I avoid bridges or anything that goes up a level off the floor, only to avoid the tantrums when it inevitable gets knocked down by a stray foot. Once you have your track pick your story. Find the relevant characters and place them near to the railway track.
This is the cheat part. I sit down and read the story (complete with funny voices. I do a pretty good Fat Controller I think Ringo Starr would be proud) and my son or daughter would push the train around acting it out. Why did he love this so much? He didn’t have to sit still and listen, he could play at the same time. As much as my son loved being read a story his concentration span didn’t always match the length of the story.
My daughter loves Peppa Pig, we have done this with her Peppa Pig toys and books, and recently with the Thunderbirds toys that started to take over my house.
It doesn’t work so well with my eldest anymore, which is a great thing. He wants to use his mind to make up what happens. I like to think that our afternoons spent on the floor encouraged him to this point. My daughter will soon follow, which is great I’m older now and it takes me more time and grunting noises to get myself up off the floor.