The cerebellum is a pre-eminent model for the study of neurogenesis and circuit assembly. Increasing interest in the cerebellum as a participant in higher cognitive processes and as a locus for a range of disorders and diseases make this simple yet elusive structure an important model in a number of fields. In recent years, our understanding of some of the more familiar aspects of cerebellar growth, such as its territorial allocation and the origin of its various cell types, has undergone major recalibration. Furthermore, owing to its stereotyped circuitry across a range of species, insights from a variety of species have contributed to an increasingly rich picture of how this system develops. Here, we review these recent advances and explore three distinct aspects of cerebellar development - allocation of the cerebellar anlage, the significance of transit amplification and the generation of neuronal diversity - each defined by distinct regulatory mechanisms and each with special significance for health and disease. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.