Spatial and temporal specification of neural progenitor cells is integral to their production of a wide variety of central nervous system (CNS) cells. For a given region, cells arise on a precise and predictable temporal schedule, with sub-types of neurons appearing in a defined order, followed by glial cell generation. Single cell studies have shown that the timing of cell generation can be encoded within individual early progenitor cells as a cell-intrinsic program. Environmental cues are important modulators of this program, allowing it to unfold and coordinating the process within the embryo. Here we review recent findings on the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic and transcription factor regulation, which are involved in temporal specification of CNS stem cells.