The core machinery that drives the eukaryotic cell cycle has been thoroughly investigated over the course of the past three decades. It is only more recently, however, that light has been shed on the mechanisms by which elements of this core machinery are modulated to alter cell cycle progression during development. It has also become increasingly clear that, conversely, core cell cycle regulators can play a crucial role in developmental processes. Here, focusing on findings from Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, we review the importance of modulating the cell cycle during development and discuss how core cell cycle regulators participate in determining cell fates