Multipotent stem cells that generate both neurons and glia are widespread components of the early neuroepithelium. During CNS development, neurogenesis largely precedes gliogenesis: how is this timing achieved? Using clonal cell culture combined with long-term time-lapse video microscopy, we show that isolated stem cells from the embryonic mouse cerebral cortex exhibit a distinct order of cell-type production: neuroblasts first and glioblasts later. This is accompanied by changes in their capacity to make neurons versus glia and in their response to the mitogen EGF. Hence, multipotent stem cells alter their properties over time and undergo distinct phases of development that play a key role in scheduling production of diverse CNS cells.