How does children’s limited processing capacity affect cultural transmission of complex information? We show that over the course of iterated reproduction of two-dimensional random dot patterns transmission accuracy increased to a similar extent in 5- to 8-year-old children and adults whereas algorithmic complexity decreased faster in children. Thus, children require more structure to render complex inputs learnable. In line with the Less-Is-More hypothesis, we interpret this as evidence that children’s processing limitations affecting working memory capacity and executive control constrain the ability to represent and generate complexity, which, in turn, facilitates emergence of structure. This underscores the importance of investigating the role of children in the transmission of complex cultural traits.