The pre-B-cell receptor (pre-BCR) is expressed following the productive recombination of the immunoglobulin heavy chain gene. Signals through the pre-BCR are required for initiating diverse processes in pre-B cells, including proliferation and recombination of the light chain gene, which eventually lead to the differentiation of pre-B cells to immature B cells. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the pre-BCR promotes these processes remain largely unresolved. Recent findings suggest that forkhead box O (FOXO) transcription factors connect pre-BCR signalling to the activation of the recombination machinery. In this Review, we discuss how FOXO transcription factors are regulated by the pre-BCR to allow the progression of the cell cycle and the recombination of the light chain gene.