While birth cohorts are shaped by underpinning life course frameworks, few if any report how they select them. This review aimed to (1) summarise publicly available frameworks relevant to planning and communicating large new early-life cohorts and (2) help select frameworks to guide and communicate Generation Victoria (GenV), a whole-of-state birth and parent cohort in planning in the state of Victoria, Australia. We identified potential frameworks from prior knowledge, networks and a pragmatic literature search in 2019. We considered for inclusion only frameworks with an existing visual graphic. We summarised each framework’s concept, then judged it on a seven-item matrix (Scope, Dimensions, Outcomes, Life course, Mechanisms, Multi-age, and Visual Clarity) to be of high, intermediate or low relevance to GenV. We presented and evaluated 14 life course frameworks across research and policy. Two, nine and three frameworks, respectively, were ranked as high, intermediate and low relevance to GenV, although none totally communicated its scope and intent. Shonkoff’s biodevelopmental framework was selected as GenV’s primary framework, adapted to include ongoing feedback loops through the life course and influence of an individual’s outcomes on the next generation. Because conceptual simplicity precluded the primary framework from capturing the wide range of relevant exposures, we selected the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s person-centred model as a secondary framework. This summary of existing life course frameworks may prove helpful to other cohorts in planning. Our transparent process and focus on visual communication are already assisting in explaining and selecting measures for GenV. The feasibility, comprehension and validity of these frameworks could be further tested at implementation.