The adult human heart does not regenerate significant amounts of lost tissue after injury. Rather than making new, functional muscle, human hearts are prone to scarring and hypertrophy, which can often lead to fatal arrhythmias and heart failure. The most-cited basis of this ineffective cardiac regeneration in mammals is the low proliferative capacity of adult cardiomyocytes. However, mammalian cardiomyocytes can avidly proliferate during fetal and neonatal development, and both adult zebrafish and neonatal mice can regenerate cardiac muscle after injury, suggesting that latent regenerative potential exists. Dissecting the cellular and molecular mechanisms that promote cardiomyocyte proliferation throughout life, deciphering why proliferative capacity normally dissipates in adult mammals, and deriving means to boost this capacity are primary goals in cardiovascular research. Here, we review our current understanding of how cardiomyocyte proliferation is regulated during heart development and regeneration.