Development is driven by tightly coordinated spatio-temporal patterns of gene expression, which are initiated through the action of transcription factors (TFs) binding to cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). Although many studies have investigated how spatial patterns arise, precise temporal control of gene expression is less well understood. Here, we show that dynamic changes in the timing of CRM occupancy is a prevalent feature common to all TFs examined in a developmental ChIP time course to date. CRMs exhibit complex binding patterns that cannot be explained by the sequence motifs or expression of the TFs themselves. The temporal changes in TF binding are highly correlated with dynamic patterns of target gene expression, which in turn reflect transitions in cellular function during different stages of development. Thus, it is not only the timing of a TF's expression, but also its temporal occupancy in refined time windows, which determines temporal gene expression. Systematic measurement of dynamic CRM occupancy may therefore serve as a powerful method to decode dynamic changes in gene expression driving developmental progression.