G-quadruplexes are pervasive nucleic acid secondary structures in mammalian genomes and transcriptomes that regulate gene expression and genome duplication. Small molecule ligands that modify the stability of G-quadruplexes are widely studied in cancer, but whether G-quadruplex ligands can also be used to manipulate cell function under normal development and homeostatic conditions is largely unexplored. Here we show that two related G-quadruplex ligands (pyridostatin and carboxypyridostatin) can reduce proliferation of adult neural stem cell and progenitor cells derived from the adult mouse subventricular zone both in vitro and in vivo. Studies with neurosphere cultures show that pyridostatin reduces proliferation by a mechanism associated with DNA damage and cell death. By contrast, selectively targeting RNA G-quadruplex stability with carboxypyridostatin diminishes proliferation through a mechanism that promotes cell cycle exit and the production of oligodendrocyte progenitors. The ability to generate oligodendrocyte progenitors by targeting RNA G-quadruplex stability, however, is dependent on the cellular environment. Together, these findings show that ligands that can selectively stabilize RNA G-quadruplexes are an important, new class of molecular tool for neural stem and progenitor cell engineering, whereas ligands that target DNA G-quadruplexes have limited utility due to their toxicity.